Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saturnalia sidekicks

With little-to-no fanfare, the Elf on the Shelf made his annual curtain rod landing late Sunday night, which means the kids found him on the morning of the 2nd. Not quite as prompt and well-timed a kickoff to the Christmas season as we managed last year, but still better than other Decembers I could think of. The bigger kids were of course happy to see the little pixie snitch, and had Christmas lists at the ready for the elf to fly back to Santa. I will expound more about my brood’s mounting excitement for yuletide festivities a little later this week, but suffice to say it’s really something to behold. At two and a half, the little girl is really aware and able to engage in the little traditions and rituals, and at five her older brother has a couple of years of clear Christmas memories under his belt, plus his natural inclination towards know-it-all pedagoguery, so of course he takes it upon himself to explain everything that’s happening to his little sister, repeatedly and at length. By the time I got home last night the elf had gone from sitting upright at one end of the living room curtain rod to laying on his side in the same spot, and when the kids asked why the elf was lying down I answered he was taking a nap since he must be tired after flying in from the North Pole the night before. The little guy took that explanation and ran with it and re-explained it to the little girl with great elaboration and visual aids demonstrating the shape of the earth and location of the poles and so forth. Good times. (Great circles.)

In any case, this year there is a new yid on the block of stuffed holiday-themed enforcers leveraging the promise of presents in return for good behavior in children. Since the Elf on the Shelf has weirdly become a kind of seasonal mascot around these blog parts, I figured it was only appropriate to extend a welcome to … the Mensch on a Bench.

And to introduce him to all of you, in case you hadn’t heard about him. He’s the result of an interfaith couple’s inability to satisfyingly reconcile the Elf with Hanukkah, and I have to admit I find his hirsute Hebrew mug a lot less disturbing than the pixie’s preternaturally smooth cheeks and smug tight-lipped smile. (Dolls are almost always creepy. The Mensch looks more like a Maccabee Muppet.) Unfortunately, I am posting this greeting a bit too late, as the website selling Mensches on Benches informs me that all units are sold out, although they are accepting pre-orders for next year. But if you can console yourself with the knowledge that there are thousands of these guys out there watching over menorahs this December, perhaps that in itself is enough.

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