It’s not December yet, but Elf on the Shelf 2020 is already very different

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Mr. Pickles sits in quarantine in a California home. (Photo by Emily Erlingsson).

(NEXSTAR) – In households where Christmas is observed, there are three types of parents: those who have successfully avoided the Elf on the Shelf tradition, those who love it and those who are just doing their best not to forget that elf needs to move EVERY night in December.

With the pandemic raising potential health concerns around a strange magical creature coming to visit, the last two groups of parents are already beginning to take action before the elf’s typical arrival. It seems both those who love the creatures and those who don’t have largely landed in the same place. That elf needs to be locked up.

Families across the country have begun quarantining elves well before Black Friday. As they do every year, creative parents are posting their favorite elf poses to social media, and the early results suggest the elf could provide some much needed comic relief to the end of 2020.

But the idea of quarantining a magical creature isn’t just a joke. For many parents, it’s a way to keep a tradition alive and their child’s holiday as close to normal as possible during a very turbulent year. With coronavirus impacting every single social interaction, children across the country have begun to wonder how Christmas will work this year. Parents are working quickly to come up with answers.

“The kids had been asking whether the elf would be able to come with the pandemic, so I thought this was a way to do it without bringing any germs from the North Pole,” said California mother of two Emily Erlingsson, who began the quarantine process for “Mr. Pickles” a full two weeks before his typical December 1st arrival.

If you weren’t quite that on top of it, there’s still time to salvage this relatively recent holiday tradition for your kids. Most kids probably aren’t going to count down the days of quarantine, and some parents may actually enjoy having the elf stuck in one spot well into December.

Dr. Marianne Engle, a New York-based clinical psychologist focused on child and adolescent psychology says that when it comes to Santa – or his elves – visiting, parents must start by creating a sense of safety within the home. Still, the nature of the holiday means kids will be inclined to play along with the tweaks to tradition.

“There’s so much magical thinking that goes on with Christmas that the magical thinking could help,” says Dr. Engle.

Crafty online sellers are playing along too. A search for “elf quarantine” on the website Etsy turns up jars, boxes, masks and even tiny Clorox products aimed at completing your quarantine look.

Parents got some additional help navigating Christmas 2020 when the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, announced last week that Santa Claus is actually immune to COVID.

If anything, the pandemic seems to have forced parents to get even more creative about how to uphold holiday traditions. At least when it comes to Elf on the Shelf, the early results are a bright spot for 2020.

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