The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 children's picture book, written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and nice. It describes elves visiting children between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season. The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features a hardbound picture book and a small soft toy in the form of a pixie scout elf.
History with the Macy's Parade
The Elf on the Shelf first appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2012. The balloon measured 64 feet long, 46 feet tall and 28 feet wide and required 90 handlers to help him make it down the Parade pipe. When aksed about the balloon's inception and creation, twins Christa Pitts and Chanda Bell and their mom Carol Aebersold revealed that they dreamed of seeing the North Pole scout from Elf on the Shelf become the first storybook character selected from an independent publisher fly in the Parade since Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit (self-published in 1901) sailed down Sixth Avenue on the way to Herald Square nearly two decades prior.
“When we got together at that time to discuss our dream for the brand, seeing the Elf in the parade was the pinnacle,” recalls Christa Pitts. The trio would work closely with Macy's throughout 2012 to ensure that the Elf on the Shelf balloon would be a sure crowd-pleaser during its debut.
After months of hard work, a 64-foot long Elf on the Shelf balloon would take its first test flight in early November 2012, alongside fellow newcomers Hello Kitty and Papa Smurf, to much fanfare. Since the balloon's debut, he has become a modern-day Parade staple, having made eight consecutive appearances as of 2019.
The scout elf's presence in the Parade would once again grow with the addition of a float in 2018 based on the franchise spin-off, Elf Pets. A costumed character of the the Elf on the Shelf, also known as Chippey, appears on the float alongside his female counterpart, Snowflake.
The balloon is scheduled to return to the re-imagined 2020 Macy's Parade, and will be guided by five work tractors in order to cut back on the number of handlers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.