They’re peeking out of cabinets and hiding in slippers, swinging from chandeliers and building Lego towers, all while keeping a watchful eye on excited children. The scout elves, made famous through the story of The Elf on the Shelf®, bring mischief and merriment down from the North Pole and into the lives of the lucky families who adopt them. Yet it took the special mission of one Metro Atlanta family, the Aebersolds, to help sprinkle elf magic into the holidays and beyond. In 2005, Carol Aebersold and her twin daughters, Chanda Bell and Christa Pitts, established Creatively Classic Activities and Books (CCA&B, LLC) to publish the story of The Elf on the Shelf®, delighting millions of children.
Who was the first elf to come and visit you?
Carol Aebersold: When I was a child, my mother gave my brother and me our own small pixie elves for Christmas. The elves were sent from Santa to watch over us and report whether we’d been naughty or nice. I named mine Fisbee, and he has always been an important part of my Christmas celebrations. When my children were very young, I introduced them to Fisbee, and he was at our home each day during the holidays to watch over us and report to Santa.
Chanda Bell: Fisbee! Growing up, the thing I looked forward to the most when the holidays rolled around was Fisbee’s return. To me, he represented everything that is magical and fascinating and wonderful about the holidays.
Christa Pitts: Fisbee’s return was definitely highly anticipated each year. Every morning, starting at Thanksgiving and right up to Christmas Eve, Chanda and I would jump up in the morning and race around the house looking for Fisbee, trying to be the first one to spot him.
When did you get permission from Santa to help spread the news about scout elves with other families?
CB: It was 2004 when Santa granted my mom and me the permission to write down the tale of his scout elves. At the time, both of us were looking for a project to keep us busy, and I saw Fisbee sitting on a shelf. I said, ‘Why don’t we put our family tradition down on paper?’ For the next eight months, you could find us huddled over the kitchen table crafting the perfect way to tell this special story. Of course, we were grateful for Santa’s input, too.
CA: It was a therapeutic process, especially for me. At the time, I had recently become an empty nester, and I was looking for some kind of project to take on. I am grateful for the way that writing this book together really brought us closer.
What was the first step in sharing The Elf on the Shelf® story?
CB: Even after Santa gave his nod of approval to the process, actually getting The Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition printed was a long road. We were very lucky to find an agent who really believed in our story. Unfortunately, publishers didn’t feel the same way. We heard of lot of nos, along with a fair share of harsher criticisms, and eventually, we decided self-publishing was the way to go. That’s how, as a family, we founded Creatively Classic Activities and Books, LLC.
CP: Everybody really chipped in to get this book published. When all was said and done, we had maxed out credit cards, emptied 401ks, sold a house — and I think that really shows the level of commitment it took to see this become a success. After the first 5,000 copies were published, I joined Mom and Chanda to develop a marketing plan and figure out what our next steps were.
CA: We just really believed that this was a story we needed to share with the world. We were hoping that people would be able to find the joy that we had in welcoming a scout elf into our home each Christmas.
How many helpers do you have now? Do you have agencies all over the world?
CP: Creatively Classic Activities and Books, LLC, truly started as a family venture, and today employs nearly 60 full-time employees. We also bring on temporary employees to help during the holiday season. Santa needs all the help he can get! We do not have agencies all over the world, but we are partnering with retailers internationally. Santa sends scout elves to families in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Mexico.
Some of these elves are quite creative! Have you ever had a serious problem with elf behavior?
CA: It’s funny, because we’ve noticed just how much scout elves take on the personality of their family. People often share their pictures with us, and we’ve seen elves that are silly, clever, calm — you name it. At the end of the day, all of Santa’s scout elves are sweet, and we’ve certainly never had a problem with Fisbee.
If the original elves report to Santa, what do birthday elves and Elf Pets™ do?
CB: The scout elves visit families at Christmastime to help Santa manage his naughty and nice lists. When the elves visit families at Christmastime, their job is to watch during the day and report back to the North Pole every night. Each time they return from a North Pole journey, they hide in a new spot and wait for you to find them! Find out how to invite scout elves back to celebrate birthdays in the story, The Elf on the Shelf®: Birthday Tradition. Children who truly believe in the magic of the season can adopt Elf Pets™ Reindeer and give them the extra love needed to fuel their journey pulling Santa’s sleigh.
Tell us all some of your own festive holiday favorites.
- Chanda Bell: “O Holy Night”
- Christa Pitts: “White Christmas”
- Carol Aebersold: “O Holy Night”
- Chanda Bell: Sugar cookie with icing and sprinkles
- Christa Pitts: Chocolate chip with nuts
- Carol Aebersold: Apricot cookies, as well as “Mamaw” Brownfield’s turtle cookies
- Chanda Bell: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I also love animated Christmas specials, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which helped inspire our animated special An Elf’s Story. We wanted to create a fun movie that families would look forward to watching each year at Christmas, like some of these great animated Christmas specials we had grown up with.
- Christa Pitts: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Carol Aebersold: It’s a Wonderful Life and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
What are some your own treasured family holiday traditions?
CB: Decorating the tree and attending church on Christmas Eve
CP: The Elf on the Shelf®, of course! We also all watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve, and cook together on Christmas Day.
CA: Completely sponsoring an underprivileged family for Christmas, watching Christmas movies as a family and, of course, our Elf on the Shelf® tradition.
Ladies, we cannot thank you enough for taking time out of this busiest of seasons for you and letting us in on the secrets of the elves! For more stories, games, recipes, crafts and creative elf ideas, explore The Elf on the Shelf ™ world at elfontheshelf.com.
Be inspired by the women of our FACES of the South series and read about them here.