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Christopher Pop-in-Kins and the Christmas Shelf Elf Tradition

Updated on October 14, 2011

Before Elf on the Shelf...

He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good.... but just HOW does Santa Claus know these things?

I found out a few years ago after buying the Elf on the Shelf gift set for my two kids. According to the book that comes with the stuffed elf, Santa employs a highly trained team of elves to watch little children all over the world and report back to him on their behavior. These elves come to your house every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the disguise of a stuffed toy elf. But at night, they come alive, report back to Santa at the North Pole, and then return to your home, usually in a different location every morning, so the kids have to go searching to find them.

This clever concept of a Christmas elf who watches your kids and lets Santa know whether they've been naughty or nice is a wonderful idea, especially because it serves as a visual reminder for kids to behave during the holiday season!. But I discovered later that Elf on the Shelf was not the first elf to help Santa with his annual task of seeing who's been naughty and who's been nice.

Christopher Pop-in-Kins Was Handmade

Christopher Pop-in-Kins may have been the first Christmas shelf elf. He earned his name by his habit of "popping in" and "popping out" of the house, and he was created by Flora Johnson when her children were young.

She brought the hand-sewn elf out for her children every year after Thanksgiving and then tucked him away again on Christmas. The kids were allowed to play hide and seek with the elf, who would hide at night while they were sleeping, but they weren't allowed to touch him because it would take away his Christmas magic.

Years passed, and her children grew up and passed the tradition on to their children. That's when Flora realized that other children might also enjoy the annual elf visits, so she wrote a book called "Christopher Pop-in-Kins Pops In." Originally self-published in 1984, "Christopher Pop-in Kins Pops In" was sold through specialty stores and and Flora handmade each elf doll that came with the book. More than 10,000 Christopher Pop-in-Kins toys and books were sold between 1984 and 2000.

Flora's son eventually took over the family business and expanded it by redesigning Christopher Pop-in-Kins, re-illustrating the book and introducing another member of the Pop-in-Kins family, Christopher's sister Christina.

The Pop-in-Kins Christmas shelf elves may not be as well known as Elf on the Shelf, but they've surely helped Santa Claus by spreading the Christmas shelf elf tradition to many children.


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