“What is that?” Dad asked. “Since when does Santa Claus wear green?” He was looking at a little plush toy hanging on the wall next to the twinkling lights and ornaments. Mom had been decorating the whole house, and most of the decorations were heirlooms used year after year and then lovingly put away for future Christmases. But this was something new. “It’s not Santa, silly, it’s an elf; one of Santa’s helpers,” said Naija.

“Well it looks weird, I feel like he’s looking at me,” Dad said. “Maybe we can hang it on the back of the tree?”

“Paranoid much?” Naija laughed; but she took the elf off the wall and found a place on the back side of the tree, where her father wouldn’t be bothered by its googley eyes. As she hung it on the branch, she noticed it felt heavier than she’d expected, as if it might bend the branch too much. But when she placed it, it didn’t bend the branch at all. And as she turned her attention to the presents underneath the tree, she heard a rustling sound and looked up. “That’s funny,” she said to herself. The elf had turned around so it still looked out onto the room through the branches. “Maybe Daddy has a reason to be paranoid.”

That night after dinner, they turned on the tree’s lights and Naija noticed that the elf was peeking out from a perfect circle of red and green twinkling flashes. She saw that her dad had noticed it too. “Um, Mom, where did that green Christmas elf come from? I don’t remember seeing it before.” Mom said she didn’t know and hadn’t seen it before either. Naija and Dad looked at each other with their mouths hanging open. “Don’t fool with me, Ellie,” said Dad. “That elf is spooky; where did it come from?” Naija interrupted, “Really, Mom, so it just showed up here? That is so cool!”

“Well, I am getting rid of it,” Dad said as he reached into the tree and grabbed the elf, hooking a glass ball in the process and sending it crashing to the floor. Mom sighed heavily, and reached for the broom to sweep up the shards. “Really, Arthur, what is wrong with you? It’s just a little green elf? He’s cute. Maybe we got him as a gift last year and forgot about it, we should keep him right where he was.”

“You don’t want him back on the wall? Isn’t that where you put him this morning?” Mom turned a curious face towards him, “No, I didn’t put him on the wall.” Naija said, “Well I didn’t put him there, and for sure Dad didn’t put him there, but that is where we found him and then we moved him to the tree.” She could feel the goose bumps crawling across the skin of her arms.

“It’s a Christmas mystery, I guess,” said Mom, as she took the sweepings to the trash can. “But I say he stays.” Naija smiled a sly smile at her father and took the little toy from his hand. She reached around the tree and put him back in same spot he had been in before.

That night, after Naija had gone to bed, Mom and Dad turned off all the lights and Mom said, “Look at that! The elf is still lit up, he’s catching the light from the street light outside!” “Humph,” grumbled Dad as he went off to bed.

The next morning was Christmas Eve and Naija was the first one up hoping to look at all the presents before Mom and Dad got up. She gathered up all hers and turned them over carefully, trying to guess what each had inside. She took the big one from Tante Lizzie and marvelled at how it jingled when she shook it. “What could that be?” she wondered. As she heard Mom and Dad getting out of bed, she hurriedly put all the presents back where they had been. Then she noticed the elf. It wasn’t in the tree anymore; it was back on the wall. The goose bumps quickly returned to her arms, and she went to sit on the sofa and stare at the elf, back to the tree, and back to the elf.

Its bobbling eyes did, in fact, seem to be focused right on her. She got up and walked over to the dinner table, and still its eyes were on her. “This is weird,” she said aloud. “What’s weird?” said Dad, walking in rubbing his eyes. Naija just pointed to the elf on the wall. Dad stopped in his tracks, “Did you…?” Naija shook her head, her own eyes starting to bulge in a googley fashion. “I need coffee,” said Dad, stumbling to the kitchen. “Mom!” Naija called out, “Please tell me you moved the elf back to the wall.”

“What?” Mom called back as she walked down the stairs. “Is the coffee ready, Art?” Mom’s PJs had reindeers all over them, a gift from Tante Lizzie last year. “Look!” said Naija. “What is going on with that elf?” With an effort, Naija got her mother to look at the wall and there hung the green Christmas elf. It looked innocent, but now when Naija and her family looked at it, there was a creepy feeling in the gut, as if a sinister force was emanating from those eyes.

Mom and Dad sat on the sofa with their cups of coffee steaming and stared at the elf on the wall. Naija paced around the house, “We should put it back on the tree and set up the webcam and then leave. We should give it to someone we don’t like, or burn it!” “Don’t be silly, Naija, there is no such thing as a haunted toy! You’ve been watching too much TV.” Naija stood firm, hands on hips and glared at her parents. “What are you talking about, how do you explain it?” “Well, I don’t know exactly, but I am pretty sure there is an explanation, and it doesn’t involve anything supernatural. Okay? So let’s just put it back in the tree.” “No!” Dad waved his hands, “Leave it on the wall, I don’t want to upset the thing!”

And so they left it, and tried to ignore it, the little green Christmas elf, hanging on the wall. Was it observing them all day as they made cookies, watched TV and played board games? As the afternoon stretched into Christmas Eve night, the time came for the traditional Bible reading of the Christmas story in Matthew, chapters 1 and 2, and the singing of a few favourite Christmas carols: Silent Night, God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen, and Away in a Manger. Then they held hands and said a prayer for those who could not be with them this Christmas, especially Tante Lizzie traveling to Holland to visit her son, Naija’s cousin Sandro, who was studying engineering and couldn’t afford to come back to the island for the holidays. Through the whole evening, Mom and Dad tried not to look at or think about the elf on the wall, but Naija kept checking, wondering if maybe, somehow, it was trying to join in with the family’s activities.

At bedtime, they all gave hugs and kisses, put out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa, with a note asking him if he knew where the elf had come from, and headed off to bed. The tree lights twinkled and as Naija looked back over her shoulder, it seemed as if the Christmas Elf gave her a little wink.

On Christmas morning, an early ray of sunlight gleamed in the window and Naija woke with a smile. She jumped from her bed and hurried to the tree to find a new bike propped up against the wall, and a train set chugging away on an oval track! “Mom! Dad! Wake up, its Christmas morning!” she called and then stopped as her eyes swept over to the Christmas Elf on the wall. It hadn’t moved, but she still felt like it was doing something sneaky, watching her with a sly grin, almost. Mom and Dad came in with smiles and watched Naija playing with the train set. Suddenly, the phone rang and Naija picked up with a cheery, “Merry Christmas!” It was Tante Lizzie, calling to send her love for the blessed morning. “Wish you were here, Tante Lizzie,” said Naija. “Really?” said her aunt; “because actually, I am right outside!” “What?!” yelled the girl and she ran to the front door. There stood Aunt Liz, with a bottle of champagne and a jug of fresh orange juice. “Surprise!” she shouted.

Mom and Tante Lizzie embraced, “What are you doing here?” asked Mom, “Why aren’t you in Holland?” “Well, Sandro said he wanted me to save my money, and so we decided to plan a big trip when I can stay longer, maybe in June.” “But he is all alone for Christmas – that seems sad,” said Mom. “Well,” laughed Tante Lizzie, “he’s not completely alone; he’s been here taking part in your Christmas traditions for the last two days, and he’s still here right now!” “Huh?” said Naija, “What do you mean he’s here?”

Dad started to laugh, and he stood up and looked into the elf’s googley eyes, “Hi Sandro!” he said and waved. Aunt Liz got up and took the Christmas Elf from the wall, “You guys had me worried when you put the webcam elf in the tree; I had to sneak in and move him back to the wall so Sandro could see what was going on. Let’s get him on Skype.”

Sandro came online and they connected the computer to the flat screen TV. He was laughing and pointing at the family. “Man, I miss you all so much, but watching you get ready for Christmas was the nicest present I could hope for. I hope that the Christmas Elf really didn’t have you spooked too much. You were freaked out, I guess, right, Uncle Art?” “Who, me, scared?” said Dad, taking a mimosa cocktail from Liz. “No way, I knew it was you all along,” he said. “Yeah, right,” said Mom and Naija at the same time. “Well, let’s open the rest of the presents,” said Tante Lizzie. “Yeah,” said Naija.