Live in fear.
In 2005, The Elf On The Shelf, (a self-proclaimed "Christmas Tradition") hit bookshelves, accompanied by a gangling bemused elf whose sole purpose on earth was to make naughty children walk the straight and narrow path or else risk Santa's ire.
It's a pretty ballsy move, calling your own book and the doll that accompanies it a tradition, but in this case it happens to be true.
For decades these strange looking elves have graced the homes of American families, jauntily propped beside bowls of sugar-free candy that smelled like Kent cigarettes.
Or at least, this was the case at my grandmother's home.
Pure, raw, terror.
Growing up, I loved to visit my grandparents' home in Pennsylvania.
They had a cat, Frosted Flakes, and there were black and white TVs in each bedroom.
What was not to love?!
My grandparents themselves were also pretty okay.
But visiting their home during the Christmas season was the stuff of nightmares.
Because of the elf.
The elf that sat on that motherfucking shelf.
Because I was a rational, reasonable child, this ancient Christmas decoration was the stuff of nightmares.
He sat there on a shelf glowering vacantly at me until I went to bed, and then, I'd wake up to discover he had moved in the night!
"He's making sure you're nice so Santa knows to bring you presents."
I wasn't buying it.
If this elf had the ability to pass as a harmless toy during the waking hours and then to move about at will while we all slept WHO KNEW WHAT IT WAS TRULY CAPABLE OF?
Every night I slept over at my grandparents' house I slept in name only.
Instead, I lay with the blanket pulled up to my nose, eyes wide open and staring at the bedroom door: I was sure it was only a matter of time until the elf appeared, sharpened knife in hand, ready to begin the elvish uprising.
Since nobody else seemed particularly bothered at the thought of a fucking MAGICAL SENTIENT ELF DOLL living in the house, I did not tell anyone how scared I was.
Maybe they knew something I didn't know.
I mean, they kept telling me the elf was living ... that it could talk to Santa. But none of them were at all worried that it might be evil.
It seemed more likely that I was the only one with any sense.
It got to the point where I'd look for excuses not to go into the living room, the elf's daytime home.
"I'm just going to sit in the dining room and do my taxes," I might have said.
"You're eight," my parents might have rightfully responded.
When forced into the living room for one family gathering I could take it no longer: I burst into tears.
I confessed it all, my terror in the face of our inevitable deaths at the hands of that elf, and my family responded in the cruelest way a family can respond...
We never spoke of the elf again, but some kind soul always made sure the elf was out of sight whenever I came to visit.
But I knew it was there.
Ready to deliver judgment.
Christmas tradition, my ass.