The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 children's picture book, written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and nice. It describes elves visiting children between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season. The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features a hardbound picture book and a small soft toy in the form of a pixie scout elf.

The Elf On The Shelf made his Macy's parade debut in 2012, and features the classic sitting pose normally associated with the small plush elf, alongside Hello Kitty and Papa Smurf, and has since become a parade staple. He still appears as of 2017, although it may be retired due to the aging and wearing out of the balloon.