Elf on the Shelf creator got ‘permission’ from Santa Claus to start iconic holiday tradition

For nearly two decades, elves have been sitting on shelves (or hanging from ceiling fans) in homes across the world in an effort to figure out which children have been naughty or nice this year.

Shannon Bell, CEO of The Lumistella Company and creator of Elf on the Shelf, told FOX Television Stations that she grew up with the now-iconic holiday tradition. 

"Santa is responsible for the elves," Bell told FOX. "When I was a little girl growing up, Santa used to send an elf to our home. And that elf used to watch and listen. Then he would fly back to Santa, talk to him every night, and in the morning before we all woke up, he had flown back from the North Pole and landed in a different spot in the house." 

She continued, "So my brother, sister and I would race each other around the home to find the elf. And it was really the most special part of our Christmas." 

(File: smilesb / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

When Bell grew up and had children of her own, she knew she wanted to carry on the tradition.

"There was nothing like it at the time," she continued. So I looked at my mom and I was like, ‘Mom, we should write a story about our elf’… and of course, you know, we had a direct relationship with Santa Claus, so we got his permission to partner with him and to tell his stories." 

The 2005 American picture book "The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition" was written by Bell and her mother Carol Aebersold. The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and nice. The book describes the elves visiting children over the holiday season, and then returning to the North Pole.

RELATED: Santa Tracker 2023: Watch NORAD follow Santa Claus around the world

Bell said it has been a joy to be a part of peoples’ Christmas traditions.

"Santa Claus loves just hearing all the laughter. It's about the laughter and joy that the Elf on the Shelf and the elf pets and the elf mates bring at Christmas time," she said, adding, "We are honored and on behalf of Santa and Mrs. Claus, they are honored, too. And it's just a lot of fun to get to be a part of this journey with families at Christmas time."

This story was reported from Los Angeles.