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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.

History with the Macy's Parade

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 is currently the oldest balloon in the Parade, having made 7 appearances as of 2018.

In 2018, the balloon will be joined by a float featuring himself and his female counterpart, Snowflake, in walk-around form to promote the new animated special, Elf Pets: Santa's Saint Bernards Save Christmas. A separate article for the float can be read here.