Elf on the Shelf gets new reindeer buddy

It all started with a sly little elf keeping an eye on things.

Once the family goes to bed, the elf flies back to the North Pole to make a daily report to Santa.

“The Elf on the Shelf” — based here in Atlanta and rooted in a family tradition going back to the 1970s — has sold a whopping 7 million books (and elves) since its 2005 release.

Some think the elf is overly commercial and creepy with his ever-present stare, while others adore the cute, grinning guy and have happily made the elf part of their annual holiday traditions — with children jumping out of bed in the morning eager to go find out where the little fella is hiding, and their parents offering daily updates on Facebook.

Love it or hate it, get ready to cheer or groan. Elf on the Shelf now has a pet, and yes, of course, it’s a reindeer.

Chanda Bell, her sister Christa Pitts, and their mother Carol Aebersold turned their Powder Springs family ritual into an Elf on the Shelf empire. With clothing and goggles (for the elves) and a birthday countdown (for the child), it was just a matter of time before this family of products expanded to include a furry friend. It’s called “Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition.” It includes a storybook and reindeer (each reindeer wears a heart charm necklace) and retails for $19.95.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently interviewed Bell, author of “Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition.”

Q: How would you sum up the “Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition”?

A: (It’s) a family tradition in a box that comes with a real reindeer from the North Pole and a Christmas book. The real purpose of “Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition” is to help Santa’s sleigh fly on Christmas Eve and how kids can be part of it. It’s really about building up the Christmas spirit so Santa can fly.

Q: Why not just keep it at Elf on the Shelf? Isn’t there the danger this might be overdoing it or taking away from the Elf on the Shelf?

A: Both traditions stand alone and they are different, separate things. The elf is going to report back to Santa and interact with your family. The reindeer’s job is to build up the Christmas spirit, which is made up of faith, hope and love.

Q: You have a son who is 13 and a daughter who is 8. What does your son, who is older, think of the Elf on the Shelf, and what does he think of the reindeer pet?

A: He is full of Christmas magic. He thinks it’s so cool that his mom works for Santa. Last night, we were talking before he went to sleep and he said, “Mom, Kendyl was lovin’ on the heart of the reindeer and she swore the heart was getting bigger.” He loves being a part of it for his sister.

Q: Does the reindeer stuffed animal stay with the child all year or does it only come out over the holidays?

A: Every family will make it their own tradition, and having said that, our reindeer will go back home on Christmas Eve. Everything about Christmas comes to an end. Our reindeer will come back on Thanksgiving.

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