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Christopher Pop-in-Kins, a Classic Christmas Shelf Elf

Updated on December 26, 2013

Before Elf on the Shelf, There Was Another Christmas Shelf Elf

A couple years ago I bought my kids the Elf on the Shelf gift set because I thought the idea of an elf who had to report to Santa about the kids' behavior was a clever idea. But I didn't realize that another Christmas shelf elf had popularized this tradition about two decades earlier.

Flora Johnson created her "hide and seek" elf known as Christopher Pop-In-Kins (because he "pops" in and out) back in 1984. Her handmade elves and self-published book sold well but were never a nationwide trend. Then along came Elf on the Shelf in 2005, popularizing the Christmas elf tradition. With the increased interest in elves who report on who's been naughty and who's been nice, Flora Johnson's Christopher Pop-In-Kins got an updated look and was joined by his sister Christina Marie Pop-In-Kins. This is how the Christmas shelf elf got started.

(Image of Christopher Pop-in-Kins Christmas elf provided by amazon. See link below.)

Christmas Shelf Elf, Christopher Pop-in-Kins
Christmas Shelf Elf, Christopher Pop-in-Kins

The Original Christmas Shelf Elf Was Self-Published and Handmade

Over 10,000 Christopher Pop-in-Kins Sold

Back in the 1960s, Flora Johnson of Ohio created a Christmas elf who used to visit her children during the holiday season and report back to Santa Claus on their behavior. The elf liked to play hide and seek, and each day the kids would have to look around to see where the elf had moved while they were sleeping. It became a family tradition. Then Flora's kids grew up and had kids of their own. One day she got a call from a very excited grandson who said one of Santa's elves had just "popped" into his home. That's when Flora decided to share her family's elf tradition with others.

In 1984, she self-published a book called "Christopher Pop-in-Kins Pops In." In the story, Christoper tells Santa he wants to visit little girls and boys during the holiday season. Santa grants the elf's request by making him the very first "Children's Elf," who must watch who's being Naughty or Nice and report back to Santa Claus each night. To make sure the handmade elves would last for generations, the story also provided these special instructions:

1) The elf could only visit from Thanksgiving to Christmas and then would return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve for the rest of the year.

2) Christopher could play hide-and-seek with the kids, but he could only move to a new location when the children were asleep or doing other things.

3) The children could not touch the elf or he would have to "pop" back to the North Pole for Santa Claus to restore his magic.

From 1984 - 2000, Flora created over 10,000 handmade Christopher Pop-in-Kins elves at her kitchen table and sold them with the book through specialty stores.

In 2000, Flora's son Rick joined the business and began expanding the Pop-in-Kins line of products. The second book, "Christopher Pop-In-Kins Goes Home" and a sing-along CD, "The Christmas Surprise", were soon available online.

Flora and her husband died in 2005, leaving the business to their son. He continued to build on the tradition his mom had created, and in 2008, a redesigned Christopher Pop-in-Kins was released with a re-illustrated version of the original story. The elf is no longer handmade by Flora Johnson, but the Christmas shelf elf tradition lives on.

(Photo copyright Pop-In-Kins, Ltd)

I like the Christopher Pop-In-Kins elf doll because I think he's much cuter than the dolls that come with the Elf on the Shelf gift set.

The plush Elf on the Shelf dolls are much better than the small ones that come with the book, but you'll pay extra for those. With Christopher-Pop-In-Kins, you get the cute doll with the book for one price.

Christina Marie Pop-in-Kins, Christopher's Sister - A femal Christmas shelf elf joins the family tradition

Christina Pop-in-Kins is Christopher's sister who makes a great elf pal for little girls.

Elf on the Shelf - Another Christmas shelf elf

Today the best-known Christmas elf is probably Elf on the Shelf. This very popular book was first self-published in 2005, and has sold over 1.5 million copies, according to Wikipedia, and also spawned a TV special.

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition
From the manufacturer: Year after year, children and adults alike are baffled by the mystery of how Santa really knows who’s been naughty or nice. After much urging by the elves and Mrs. Claus, Santa has allowed his biggest secret to be revealed in The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition . Touted as "The best thing since The Night Before Christmas," this gift set includes a light skin, blue eyed North Pole pixie-elf, hardbound children's book and keepsake box. Children can register their elf online and receive a special response from Santa.

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Christopher Pop-in-Kins


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