Bernie, our Catholic Elf on the Shelf


Do you know about the Elf On The Shelf?

Year after year, children and adults alike are baffled by the mystery of how Santa really knows who’s been naughty or nice. After much urging by the elves and Mrs. Claus, Santa has allowed his biggest secret to be revealed in The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. At the start of each Christmas season, the elf appears to serve as Santa’s eyes and ears, traveling back to the North Pole each and every night to make a detailed report of the day’s activities. This keepsake gift set includes a light skin, blue eyed boy North Pole pixie scout elf and a hardbound watercolor picture book. Children can register their elf online to receive an official adoption certificate and a special letter from Santa.

We ordered our Elf on the Shelf last week, and he arrived yesterday afternoon during naptime.  Many families’ elves make their appearances on Thanksgiving.  Our elf, Bernie, made his appearance on top of the refrigerator Wednesday night after dinner.

Janie immediately spotted him.  “What’s THAT?!”

We explained that he is one of Santa’s elves and that his name is Bernie.  He will come everyday to watch Janie and Walt, and he will leave at the end of each day to report their behavior to Santa–good and bad.  When the kids wake up each day until Christmas, they will find Bernie in a new spot throughout the house.  (They’ll find him tomorrow morning perched on top of the family room television.)

If parents are feeling really creative, they can find some fun ways to pose their elves throughout the house with a simple Google search.

After Christmas, Bernie returns to the North Pole to work at Santa’s workshop until the next year.  However, depending on how the year goes until next Thanksgiving, I envision Bernie making surprise appearances to remind our children that their behavior (good and bad) matters outside of the Christmas season.

Philip and I keep revisiting the conversation of how we will balance the secular and religious as Christmas approaches.  We decided there was no harm in bringing Santa to our home, having fun with an elf named Bernie that encourages good behavior, and watching our children’s anticipation of Christmas build.

Nonetheless, we decided we didn’t want them to think of Bernie the elf merely as a behavior monitor and the means of receiving gifts from Santa.  We thought we’d add to Bernie’s responsibilities by making him the messenger of the meaning of Christmas.  When we introduced the kids to Bernie tonight, we explained that Christmas is an exciting time to prepare for baby Jesus’ birthday and that Bernie will help us to learn about Jesus and His family.  Bernie works for Santa, and Santa loves Jesus.  That is the vision of Santa we hope to build for our children.  We want them to think of Santa as a kind old man who adores the Christ Child and blesses good children who love the Lord.  Bernie the elf might work for Santa, but Santa works for Jesus.

Statue from

To help teach Janie and Walt about Christmas, Bernie will present the children with a Little People’s nativity scene on Sunday morning.

We are buying our Little People nativity scene this Saturday duringSmall Business Saturday at our participating area Catholic bookstore.  We want the children to be able to touch and play with the “big players” present at Christ’s birth so that they can better understand the story, and Bernie will introduce them to the children.

To help our children learn more about what Christmas is all about, Bernie the elf will deliver the ornaments for our Jesse Tree, the star for the top of our Christmas tree, and the Christ Child from the nativity scene.  Bernie will join us to light the Advent Wreath, read Scripture, and pray at the dinner table.  He will sit with us as we gather around the Nativity scene to sing Christmas carols.  He will bring us invitations to go to special Christmas events such as a local parish’s living Nativity scene (complete with live animals).  He will put out the ingredients to make the Christ Child a birthday cake to eat on Christmas Eve.  (Maybe he’ll even make a snow angel in the flour on the countertop!)

We look forward to incorporating the Elf on the Shelf into our Christmas season in a fun, unique way for our family.  We’re committed to keeping the excitement and fun a factor for our children, but we want to balance it with the reason we are celebrating Christmas–Christ Himself.

What is your family doing during the Christmas season?  Do you have any special or unique traditions that you would like to share?  How do you balance the secular and the religious in your home?

Copyright 2012 Catherine Boucher


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  1. We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition last year. On his second day with us, our Elf, Snickers, was found by our nativity, cradling the baby Jesus in his lap. This year he will visit the nativity again, and will also bring our kids ‘prayer cards’ throughout the season!

  2. Thanks, ladies! Barb, your elf, Snickers, sounds like a pretty cool guy. Our elf, Bernie, might have to steal a few moves from him! Thanks for sharing.

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