Over-the-Top Christmas—How Much is Too Much?

When my kiddos were in the early years of elementary school, I tried to help out in the classrooms as much as possible. It was a treat watching them interact with other little ones and partaking in classroom activities alongside them. But one year, things took a decided turn for the worse. 

I got lassoed into becoming a “room parent.” Insert ominous music here. 

Ok, being a room parent shouldn’t be too bad, right? 

And it was all rather harmless—cutting shapes for craft projects, making copies, emailing parents about field trips—until the dreaded Christmas party planning began. The other three moms called a meeting to discuss and delegate tasks for the one-hour party. I showed up assuming we’d all have to pick up a couple of items: napkins, or cupcakes, juice boxes, maybe a festive dollar store table cloth.

Ha! Amateur.

What these women had in mind would put Martha Stewart to shame. They wanted each child to have a helium balloon tied to their chair. There would be a cookie decorating station stocked with an extensive selection of icing and sprinkles, and a Christmas-themed slime-making station. They also planned to purchase specialty sugary drinks, also holiday-themed, and beautifully displayed on a festive sleigh. Each kid would go home with Xmas slime, and a perfectly packed goody bag full of fun tchotchkes that would be thrown out in two seconds, and an assortment of candy. And let’s not forget the sugar high sure to follow. Can you say Pinteresty predicament?!

That meeting was eye-opening. It got me thinking about how much emphasis my husband and I put on creating the “ideal” Christmas for our kids. After doing some serious soul searching, we concluded that instead of concentrating on the meaning and message for the season, we were often more focused on all the external trappings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no scrooge. I like a fun party and loads of Christmas gifts—

but at what point have we lost our minds and taken a left turn at Blitzen street?

  • How many gifts are acceptable without going overboard? 
  • How do you set healthy expectations for children without dashing their hopes? 
  • And would all this focus on material things lead to even more entitlement? 

I’d love to say that my encounter with the Martha Stewart moms led me to a life-changing epiphany, and from that point forward, I had all the answers to these pressing Christmas questions… alas, it’s been a process. We’ve tried a number of approaches over the years, some more successful than the others. Overall though, we’ve just been more aware—doing our best to not surrender to a consumeristic Christmas. Being more intentional has made a big difference. For instance, it’s opened up wonderful dialogues with our kids about why we give gifts, feast, and celebrate in the first place. And we no longer feel like we’re in competition with anyone else. We feel no guilt about saying no when it’s an added hoop to jump through. We choose to celebrate according to the values and priorities of our own family. The current culture doesn’t dictate to us what kinds of traditions and rituals we take part in. And that is pretty magical, more so than Xmas slime, in my humble opinion.

But if you’re looking for ways to get back to the basics, check out some of the age-old wisdom from the interwebs. I’ve compiled four fun posts that offer suggestions to help families avoid the stress and pitfalls of an overly Pinteresty observance of Christmas.

  1. The 5 Gift Rule Christmas  The Pragmatic Parent has great advice for reigning in the extravagant gift-giving. She’s narrowed it down to: a want, a need, something to wear, something to read, and something to do.

  2. 4 Tips to Stop Buying So Much At Abundant Life With Less, find some wonderful tips to make sure your whole family is on board with less stuff in their stockings. Her approach is no-nonsense and includes helpful tidbits like having a sit-down with the overly indulgent grandparents and holding a family meeting so kids can manage their expectations ahead of time. 

  3. Christmas Contentment Financial wizard Dave Ramsey has some guidance for parents to teach kids how to find contentment in generosity rather than receiving. Want to know how much to give? He breaks it down into four categories that make your Xmas list a snap—consider your parenting style, your finances, family traditions, and, your values.

  4. Trade the “Gimme’s” for Gratitude  Nobody wants spoiled kids. Today’s Parent offers some insightful info on helping children tap into more gratitude and letting go of the “gimme gimme” attitude. One expert suggests sponsoring a family in need to help children realize how good they have it.

BONUS: grab our Attitude of Gratitude freebie, straight from the pages of our Kid's Gratitude Journal. In it you'll find pages that help kids understand what Gratitude is, to be grateful for their talents, and to find gratitude... even when they're given that unexpected gift!


No matter how you choose to spend the month of December, we know it’ll be a blast. You make intentional parenting look like a breeze! So glad you’re joining us on this wild adventure of parenting and family life. Let’s do this!

If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at Hello@FamiliesofCharacter.com. If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together! 

Remember to tap into our Thrive Community on Facebook. It’s free and our team’s very own clinical counselor offers helpful tips and encouragement to parents who are adventuring together. 


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