Thanks to “Elf on the Shelf” and “Reindeer in Here,” families have more options than ever when it comes to starting a new holiday tradition.
But which is the best fit for you?
To help you decide, we laid out the details for your side-by-side comparison. But first, a little background:
Elf on the Shelf is the established option. Since it debuted in 2005, more than 13 million have been sold, according to the company’s website. The company refers to sales as “elf adoptions.”
It was created by twin sisters Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts and their mother, Carol Aebersold, and was based on their own family tradition of putting an elf around their house during the holidays.
Reindeer in Here is the newcomer, but is rapidly growing in popularity.
Billed as a low-maintenance, less-stern tradition, it sold out when it debuted in 2017. It received awards by a slew of parenting organizations, including Mom’s Choice Awards, National Parenting Product Awards and The Toy Insider.
What are the major differences?
Reindeer don’t hide like the elves do (which means no panicking to remember to hide him in a new spot before the kids wake up). Kids are encouraged to take their reindeer wherever they go. Elves aren’t allowed to be touched because they might lose their Christmas magic.
While elves are scouts for Santa and report on children’s behavior, reindeer are friends of Santa and children and share wishes between the two.
And now, here’s everything else you need to know:
What is ‘Elf on the Shelf?’
The story: Santa has Scout Elves that help him with his naughty and nice lists. Families adopt an elf, who watches while kids are awake and then flies back to the North Pole each night to give Santa a report on their behavior. When the elf returns home, he finds a new hiding spot and waits for children to find him. But kids aren’t allowed to touch the elves or the elves will lose their magic.
The catch: First, parents need to remember to move the elf each night. They’re also tasked with finding new—and more intricate—hiding spaces. Thanks, Pinterest. It’s more difficult than you think. But isn’t the kid’s excitement worth all the effort?
Cost: $29.95 for the starter kit, which includes an elf doll and a hardcover book about the tradition.
When it starts: Many elves return from the North Pole the last week of November, leading up to Dec. 1 (a time known as Scout Elf Return Week). But all elves are different and some wait until the second week of December.
Accessories: Let us count the ways! Not only do elves come in male and female and with different skin tones, you can buy them clothes, paper crafts and shrink-and-send letters to Santa. They also have pet helpers, including a reindeer and a Saint Bernard puppy.
What is ‘Reindeer in Here?’
The story: The reindeer is the first Christmas gift of the year from Santa. He can go everywhere with your child: the playground, the store and to bed. Each night, the reindeer communicates your child’s wishes to Santa. On Christmas Eve, children put their reindeer under the tree so Santa can take him or her back to the North Pole, where they’ll live until early next December.
As a bonus, all reindeer have one antler that is bigger than the other and the coinciding book reinforces a message that “being different is normal.”
The catch: Not much. Maybe that the reindeer will get dirty from going everywhere with your kid. And there’s a chance it could get lost. But other than that, it’s a special tradition that requires almost no effort from parents.
Cost: Around $30 in stores, Bed Bath and Beyond and on Amazon for the starter kit of reindeer plush doll and storybook.
When it starts: Dec. 1 through Dec. 24.
Accessories: Though Reindeer in Here is new, he comes with a lot of extras. You can get a wishing jar that comes with 24 cards to write down Christmas wishes and a coloring and sticker book. Branded merchandise includes socks, blankets, mugs and treat plates.