The ELF Countdown Begins

Sam Tench / Photo blogs / / 2 Comments

With December soon to descend upon us, Elf preparations have become my world. Shortly after deciding to grant permission of entry to our ‘clan of elves’ for Christmas 2020, came a harsh realization: the luxury of preparation time is not on my side. I can hear, ever so quietly, the illusory sound of a persistent clock ticking, reminding me that time is running out.  This year, I feel significantly underprepared.

“No more procrastination, I need to create a list, I need to start on SOMETHING!”

So, I got to work. First, I made a list of rough ideas that would hopefully see us through another Christmas period. I’ve gained many insights over the years from working with the little Christmas Elves, but crucially, one key lesson hovers above the rest. It’s ridiculously obvious, yet for a couple of years, I had overlooked this lesson, thus making the job of being ‘head elf’ akin to a nightmare.  You may be wondering what this lesson is? It’s simple, yet for me, it has been a life-saver. Before jumping headfirst into the world of crazy elf tales, a solid plan of action is essential.

Guessing your way through December without a plan to work from turns an already tiresome job into an anxiety-provoking exercise.  I can assure you, the stress of having to pull something together at short notice, at the very last minute, is not worth the stress. Nor is it worth the loss of precious sleep that inevitably follows.

What goes into an Elf antics plan?

Frankly, the preparations alone take time and lots of it! One detail that I’ve yet to address is that not only do we have some of the naughtiest and messiest elves, they’re also highly imaginative, creative and stubborn!  Every year the elves insist on pushing the limits and putting on a performance, unlike anything we’ve previously experienced. Repeating the same old stunts isn’t an option, nor is it any fun (although, I’m sure the kids wouldn’t remember everything from the past)!

Essentials for creating fun filled antics while minimising last-minute attacks of Elf-induced stress

  1. Our elves always go the extra mile to ensure their little friends (my kids) are amazed each morning with something we’ve not previously seen our elves do.

You might think I’m out of my mind and sometimes I’d tend to agree. But it’s true, over the past seven or eight years of working with our elves, we’ve never repeated a previous year’s antic.  There are a couple of exceptions, like going to school, for example.  Yet despite the idea being similar, the setup is always a little different.  I’m not sure how long this can continue, because the task gets harder every year.

  1. Tame is lame (in our house). Generally speaking, ‘the clan’ has an endless stream of way-out ideas! Nothing is off-limits, and we can usually expect that antics will range from downright stupid, to outrageous, or work-intensive.

I keep a file on my laptop devoted to the elves.  This includes copious notes about each antic, together with lists of props and pages of signs and backgrounds required for each scene.  This way, I have some idea of how each antic will look.

  1. Props are essential. I have a large collection of props. Some have been home-made, and many have been purchased. Look around your home, and you’ll be surprised what you can use to create fantastic Elf-inspired themes.

While on the topic of props, I admit that I have a big problem when shopping for our elves. Usually, I’m not a shopper.  However, my collection of elf prop accessories makes this hard to believe. My collection is excessive, but I’ve had some of the props for years, and they accumulate and grow every year.  As soon as October (sometimes earlier) approaches, I begin the search for new pieces to add to my ever-growing collection. I might find something that doesn’t fit into my well planned schedule, but it grabs my attention, so I buy it anyway. I never know when that sparkly jacket or that random set of miniature toys may come in handy.

  1. Organising props into days alleviates the last-minute stress. I do this by bagging up as much as I can and labelling it with the date. Sometimes, I add extra bits and bobs that I’ve overlooked in earlier preparation.

Throughout December, I allocate one room in our home as the base for Elf paraphernalia. This room is entirely off-limits for the kids. We’ve had to ensure the room is childproof and doors are wedged tightly shut. Inside the organised chaos, everything is covered with blankets and moved to the sides of the room (just in case).  A special Elf room would be nice.  A room with everything displayed neatly so I can clearly see everything I have to work with.  Maybe a magic room that the kids can’t see!  One can only dream!

The race to the starting line

With the little time, I have left before school holidays start (my kids finish their school year way too early!), it’s essential I make the most of this time and let my creative juices flow.  With a whole range of other things to attend to, (blogs, photography, learning projects and running a home) sometimes the elves slip off the top of my priority list.   And just when I thought circumstances couldn’t get any more difficult to pull off a spectacular performance, BANG. I hit a brick wall hard!  Also, on my list of obstacles, I have back pain (due to a bulge in one of my discs) to content with.  Subsequently, those little elves have been neglected; left in their storage boxes wandering if they’ll get to see the day of light this Christmas.   They couldn’t have been further from my mind over the last few days.   I never doubt our elves though; one way or another, everything always falls into place.  This year, I’m sure will be no exception.  Stay tuned to find out!


  1. Julie Johnson  —  24 November 2020 at 11:21 pm

    I’m sure the lively elves will see the light of day but you really need to take care of your back as well Sam. The pics have been wonderful as always very thought provoking some of them. OK loved the blog, but want to know that you are the first priority and back pain can be an awesome arse and a future of hell in the long and short term. Let the elves play havoc if you want but realise the cleanup of too much mess will be to your detriment in health. I await the next installment xxx Julie

  2. Sam Tench  —  1 December 2020 at 1:03 pm

    Yes, I do need to look after my back. I’ve been doing that very well, thank you for your concern.
    I’ll be recruiting some helpers this year. I have a good reason to ask for help this year!
    Thanks again.


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