If you’ve got young children, the chances are you know all about Elf on the Shelf.
But for the uninitiated, perhaps you’ve seen photos of an innocent looking elf getting up to no good clogging up your social media feeds, and been left a little confused.
The Elf on the Shelf tradition began in America and has blown up over recent years.
It all started with a children’s book, written by Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell in 2004, telling the story of just how Santa Claus knows who has been good and who has been bad.
He no longer relies on a letter, but sends out ‘scout elves’, who hide out in people’s homes and report back to the North Pole on bad behaviour each night.
The book comes with an accompanying elf for parents to recreate the story at home - hiding the elf in a different place each night so when the children wake up they find him somewhere new each morning.
If their children have been well behaved, some parents leave a present, but the really creative ones are making sure their children find their elf in imaginative, and sometimes quite compromising, positions each morning.
The trend has become viral, with parents around the world posting their weird and wonderful pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Mum Sara Furie has come up with some great ideas for her two-year-old daughter Scarlett’s elf.
He has been seen impersonating a superhero, indulging in dad’s whisky, partying with Tinkerbell and a wrestler and raiding the biscuit tin.
Sara said: “I wanted to start a tradition with Scarlett that she’d remember from a young age, and also wanted to do something different than giving her an advent calendar as she gets them from other relatives.
“Her main concern is that no one touches him so he doesn’t lose his magic.”
There are two simple rules that every child must know when it comes to having a scout elf:
Firstly, it cannot be touched. Christmas magic is very fragile and if a scout elf is touched it may lose that magic and be unable to fly back to the North Pole.
Secondly, a scout elf cannot speak or move while anyone in the house is awake. A scout elf’s job is to watch and listen.
The second rule has become a handy excuse for any parents who may have a creative block for a new idea, or simply forget - the elf could not move because someone was awake in the night.
Mum-of-two Jade Bentham has been setting up a scout elf for her children Tyler, seven, and Ellie, four.
The elf was accompanied on December 1 with a letter from Santa warning that he could be “very mischievous”.
Since then, he has caused chaos with a toilet roll, held a tea party with Ellie’s dolls and teddies, and criticised the quality of their biscuits, leaving a note that they should not be left for Santa.
Jade said: “Tyler and Ellie love waking up each morning to see what the elf has been up to while they was sleeping. They find it hilarious.”