Elf Mail Could Be Your New Favourite Holiday Tradition
By Alicia McAuley
Nov 16, 2017
The most wonderful time of the year is almost here! While stores have been rolling out their Christmas merch since what feels like Labour Day, now that Halloween is over, I’m officially ready to turn my attention to all things merry and bright.
Christmas has always been my favourite holiday, but it’s definitely taken on a new meaning since I became a parent. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of my kids — that wide-eyed wonder at the magic of it all — is an incredible feeling. As the holidays creep closer, I find myself reflecting more and more on the importance of family traditions. For me, that includes watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, and baking my Nana’s famous shortbread cookies. Last year, when my eldest son was three and really getting into the holidays for the first time on his own, I decided to start a new tradition dubbed “Elf Mail.” It was an instant hit, and one that I hope will continue to be part of our family’s yuletide celebrations for many years to come.
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The idea for Elf Mail came about as an alternative to a certain Elf that famously resides...on a shelf. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-shelf Elf. I love seeing all the creative ideas that parents come up with for their Elves on Pinterest and Instagram. But to be honest, it’s just not my thing. (And luckily for me, it’s not something that my kids are into, either. Mostly because they still don’t know that it exists. Like Shopkins, or Caillou...)
Elf Mail is essentially an activity-focused advent calendar, presented as a series of letters that are sent to your child from Santa’s elves at the North Pole. It can be customized based on your budget, your family’s schedule, your child’s age and their interests. All you need is a holiday mailbox, a bit of imagination, and a few basic pointers to get started.
There are plenty of great tutorials on Pinterest for making your own mailbox, but keep in mind that your box should be large enough to hold special deliveries (more on that in a minute). Some of the easiest and most adorable tutorials use material you may already have, like an old shoe box, cereal box or tissue box. We used a cereal box:
As for decorations, let your little artist loose with stickers, paint, and glitter — the more festive, the better! We used some construction paper, a hot glue gun, glitter tape, pom poms and a brass push pin. Don't forget to leave the bottom flap of the cereal box open so the letters are accessible! We added a little flag, which lets your child know the elves have brought a special delivery, and yes, it is wearing an elf hat.
The best thing about Elf Mail is that you have complete control over the content, and can make it as simple or as complex as you’d like. At our house, the messages would often coincide with activities that we had already planned to do anyway, and would include some kind of “special delivery” related to the letter. For example, on day two our elves left a letter instructing my son to help decorate the Christmas tree, along with a new ornament. Closer to Christmas, there was a letter telling my son to prepare for an exciting adventure, which turned out to be a family road trip to look at Christmas lights. To keep things budget-friendly, most of the special delivery items were either things that we already had at home (cookie cutters, holiday movies), or things that I purchased from the dollar store (stickers, a colouring book, activity kits).
A Note About Timing
Timing is everything, right? Another nice thing about elf mail is that timing can change depending on what works best for your family. At our house, elf mail used to arrive after my son went to bed, and checking the mailbox became a fun part of his morning routine. Now that he’s in school during the day, Elf Mail activities will have to wait until the afternoon and early evening, with morning delivery on weekends only.
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The content of your mail can also change based on how much time you have available. Busy weeknights might mean your letter comes with a small treat or a sheet of holiday stickers that can be used any time, while less hectic weekends might bring mail that encourages you to bake Christmas cookies, or settle in for a holiday-themed family movie night.
Make It Your Own
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do Elf Mail, so don’t be afraid to put your own spin on it. Maybe your elves send postcards instead of letters in envelopes. Or maybe your elves focus on performing acts of kindness for friends and neighbours. You could even get another family in on the fun and create Elf Mail for each other. The truth is that your kids might not even remember what their letters said, but they will remember the special times they spent making memories with you — and that’s the best holiday tradition of all.
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