theelfontheshelf1We lost the Elf on the Shelf.

He travelled with us to England last year, where (to the bemusement of mildly scornful British relatives), we succeeded in putting on a great show of proving that the Elf on the Shelf watches children everywhere they go.

But he didn’t make it back to Halifax.

We discovered that Meeka was missing about one week into December, following a constant campaign by the kids: “please, please, go to the basement and get the elf!”, and daily stories from my 8-year old about what her friends elves were up to: “Mum, Mum – Tyler’s elf took a selfie…Lauren’s elf got into the Cheerios!”

But Meeka is not in the basement. He’s somewhere in a suitcase or carry-on bag, possibly wrapped in a sock… or maybe in the garbage, thrown out during in the post-holiday unpacking frenzy.

I didn’t buy a new elf, partly because it would cost 40 bucks, and also because he wouldn’t look the same (Meeka was a first generation elf; his face was a little skinnier). Plus, I still have hope that a Christmas miracle will somehow reveal him, peeking out of the mounds of dirty clothing piled on our bedroom floor. But as the season approaches, I am losing hope.

I considered creating an elf replacement called “Barbie in the Room”, but all our Barbies have short cropped hair and marker all over their face. Plus, I don’t have the time or the skills required  to fashion a little elf outfit for Barbie.

So this year, we are going without the elf.

And the advent calendar. (I forgot to buy one).

And the tree.

OK. That last one is a lie. We did get a tree. But it was not the day-long, hike in the woods, followed by hot chocolate and candy canes experience that I had wished for.  Nope. Instead of driving into the country to a snowy tree-lot (Family Fun Halifax actually has an amazing list of them here), we got into our car, drove 5 minutes to the parking lot of the Halifax Forum and chose a pre-cut tree. And do you know what? It was fun. The guys from Naugler’s are always so nice. We didn’t have to drive too far. My three year old got to see the chainsaw and the baler. This small journey is becoming a family tradition. A city tradition.

The next morning, I began worrying about when we would find a time to Decorate The Tree (I was thinking family pictures, Christmas music, cookies, hot chocolate, egg nog, maybe invite Granny over). I decided to take a step back. What the heck was I doing trying to create another Christmas tradition? Why not just decorate the damn tree?

Over the next week, that’s what we did. We let the kids throw up a few ornaments, and then they lost interest. We fiddled with the lights, and then we lost interest. The next day, a few more ornaments went up. When I have 10 minutes to myself (it may happen), I plan to carefully put up my handful of “very special” ornaments – ones I have had since I was a kid. And finally, whenever we get around to it, we will lift one of the children up to the top and place the star, or an angel at the top of the tree.

And take one picture.

Losing the Elf on the Shelf made me feel really bad – like I totally failed at Christmas. What I have to remember is that there is a difference between trend and tradition, and that traditions are are not sold, imposed or retweeted.

This Christmas, despite my failures, I am going to try to step back, forget about that blessed elf…and pay more attention to the simple family traditions that will make our Christmas special.