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Grandma Lights Up Instagram By Dressing Up As Real Life Elf On The Shelf Every December

Alison in the off license in December 2016 (PA Real Life/Collect)

A glamorous grandmother is setting Instagram a jingle with hilarious festive photos of herself larking about as a real life Elf on the Shelf – dressed as one of Santa's little helpers to do everything from pull pints to relax at a posh spa.


For 11 months of the year, Alison Campbell, 57, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a regular mom-of-two, juggling family life with a sensible job as an enforcement officer with the city council.

But, inspired by her daughter's decision to play the Elf on the Shelf game with her own little ones – where parents can hide an elf figurine around the house for their children to find every morning leading up to Christmas – Alison went one better by donning fancy dress and becoming a flesh and blood version of the impish creature.

Now from December 1st to 24th every year, she pulls on a Primark elf costume and is snapped wearing it to complete a variety of challenges from bus driving to bar work – much to the amusement of friends, family and strangers.

Alison, who even had her eyebrows waxed dressed as an elf, laughed: “My family think I'm bonkers, but the reaction is very funny. Everyone always laughs when they see me in my costume and nobody has ever been negative.

“It can be tricky to think of different funny places to go and take the photos, but I'm going to keep going this year. My family and friends have all been saying they can't wait to see what I do."

Alison posing with some empty wine bottles in December 2016 (PA Real Life/Collect)

Just after seeing her daughter, who she does not wish to name, buy the game based on a bestselling book in 2016, inspiration struck when Alison spotted an adult elf costume when she was out Christmas shopping.

She said: “I thought, 'Why don't I do it for real and bring this game to life?'"

So, in December 2016, Alison posted her first Elf on the Shelf snap to Instagram – showing her sipping a glass of port.

Alison pretending to drive a bus in Belfast in December 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

Buoyed by the positive comments from her family and friends, she continued the next day, and the next, and the next.

Over the course of December, she uploaded photos of herself doing everything from enjoying a glass of fizz in a bath filled with empty wine bottles, to shoving as many marshmallows as she could into her mouth, running around the park and pulling a pint behind the bar of her local pub.

“I decided to be an adult Elf on the Shelf," she laughed. “Not in a rude way, though, just in a silly way."

Alison at Newcastle United's ground in December 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

She continued: “For example, I was a bad elf in the off license, taking photos of myself pretending to down a bottle of wine.

“The security guard actually came over to see what I was doing – I think he was surprised to find me in full elf costume.

“He still remembers me now, and will give me a wave whenever I go in."

Alison pulling a pint in December 2016 (PA Real Life/Collect)

Alison also dressed as an elf to stroll along the aisles of her local Tesco, to muck about in the play area of a local ice rink and to climb up onto her roof to string up some fairly lights.

And, when she went to stay at a five star hotel just outside Belfast for a spa break later in the month, the costume came in her suitcase.

She said: “I had a picture taken in the fire and ice room of the spa. Everyone else was in their nice fluffy dressing gowns, then there's me dressed as an elf."

Alison in the ice room of a spa in December 2016 (PA Real Life/Collect)

Originally, Alison had only planned her Elf stunt as a one-off, but family and friends love her photos so much that they have convinced her to dust off her costume every year.

And in 2017, came her unforgettable fire station stint.

“Those pictures make me smile every time," she said. “They let me have photos taken in the fire engine, sliding down the pole and even spraying the big pressure hose – which was so powerful I almost knocked myself off my feet."

Alison at a fire station in December 2017 (PA Real Life/Collect)

She added: “People are always happy to get involved and to let me take the photos. They think it's funny."

With December 2018 came yet more adventures for Alison and her elf costume.

She continued: “One of the funniest moments was at a big Christmas display they had in Belfast city center, which included this huge slide."

Alison at Jesmond Dene Parkland, Newcastle, in December 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I'm not great with heights, so asked if I could just have a photo at the top. The man running it insisted I went on the slide," said Alison.

“I had to say to him, 'Yes but look what I'm wearing,' and opened my coat to reveal my elf outfit.

“He absolutely laughed his head off, and somehow managed to convince me to slide down."

Alison at Stormont in December 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

She laughed: “There I was, squealing away with this big crowd gathered."

She has also posted photos taken at a busy bus depot, where she pretended to drive, at Stormont Estate, home to Northern Ireland's Parliament buildings, and at Strangford Loch, a large inlet in County Down – at each of them dressed as an elf.

The elf costume has even travelled outside Northern Ireland, as Alison took it with her to visit family in the north east of England.

Alison at the Angel of the North in December 2018 (PA Real Life/Collect)

“I got Elf on the Shelf photos at the Angel of the North and even outside Newcastle football club, which got me some strange looks," she added.

And even now, with her left arm in plaster following recent surgery for issues with her tendon, Alison is ignoring 'Elf and safety' and donning her trademark green costume to spread some 2019 Christmas cheer.

“Watch this space," she chuckled.