Tony was a small child when my parents were told he had an incurable kidney disease. The nature of this condition was such that Winter social activities were avoided, or very restricted, in fear he would get sick from common germs.
As Tony grew older he was often sad, and confused because he was unable to participate in many of the activities in our little community. Christmastime, especially, as the local fire department would hold their annual “meet Santa” event. Children would hand-deliver their Christmas lists to Santa at the local Fire Department and walk away with a bag full of holiday goodies, and a reassurance that Santa knew exactly what they wanted.
When Tony was three, Santa paid a memorable visit to our house, by way of a fire truck, complete with screaming sirens that could be heard all over town. What a thrill it was for him. Tony wanted so badly to see Santa, with a mix of shyness and uncertainty, he ran to the stairs where he peered through the railing with eyes as wide as saucers.
“Well young man come down and let me see you.” said Santa “I can see you.” replied Tony. Realizing Tony’s reluctance, Santa climbed the stairs where the two of them had a magical visit.
After their conversation Santa stood to leave. Tony eased down the stairs with a smile that lit the room. “You are a good boy!” Santa said, with a smile. Santa leaned over and gave Tony a snug, Santa kind of hug. “I will be watching you until I return on Christmas Eve, so be a good boy.”
After Santa left, Tony noticed an elf, The Elf, perched on a branch in our glistening, Christmas tree. “Mommy look, Santa left an Elf!” Tony squealed. “I think that Santa left him to watch over you until Christmas.” Mom responded.
When morning arrived, a note was found under the tree along with a little Christmas sock. The note instructed, that when children had a “good” day a surprise would be left inside the tiny stocking. To the contrary “bad” days meant there would be a dirty rock or an empty stocking.
The elf would move around the room watching over Tony. Elf might appear on top of the curtain, lamp, or pictures; moving throughout the night. This was exciting for Tony. While he never saw the elf move, he believed the elf spent his nights flying about the house, while everyone was sleeping.
Santa had given strict instruction, that Elf should never be touched, or he would disappear and would not return. If Santa’s instructions were followed, each year on Thanksgiving night Tony was to ring a jingle bell that was tied with a red ribbon, just before going to bed. That would beckon The Elf to return for another Christmas season.
Tony is no longer with us, as he passed away at the age of 13.
Elf has since been passed on to me, Tony’s little sister, then on to my little brother Josh. We’ve all enjoyed Elf’s annual visits for many years.
Once we were grown, with kids of our own, Elf was then passed on to Trey and Coty, my twins who would enjoy the magnificent wonders Elf would bring with him.
Today, while the boys no longer believe, he’s still very much a part of our holiday.
Each year we set Elf in our family tree and reflect on all the memories the one tiny little guy holds.
We’ve often created Elf Kits for close friends and family, complete in a decorative Christmas tin with a letter from Santa telling the tale of Elf. We include a letter to parents sharing details of how the Christmas magic works. There’s a jingle bell tied with a red ribbon; a small Christmas stocking (one for each child in the household) and of course Himself the Elf.
It’s been a lovely gift that we’ve been able to share with so many, and a tradition we’re proud to pass on. It’s our way of keeping a significant part of Tony alive in all of us and in some small way, sharing Tony with the world.
Whenever we could, we shared stories of Himself the Elf with classmates, friends and anyone who truly believes in all the magic the holiday season brings.
Additional Tip: This makes a great use for all that extra Halloween candy. I used to put up half the boys candy and use it as the “reward” that would be left in their little stockings when they’ve been good!
The story of our family tradition won Best Posting about Christmas on a Blog in 2005
If you would like to create your own Elf tradition – you can find similar products to mine on Amazon. Click on the images below for more detail:
If you do share this tradition with your own family, I’d love to hear your stories – please share them in the comments or by dropping me an email at gaylabaer AT gmail DOT com