Stop Trying To Make Christmas Magical With Presents


Maybe I’m the only one feeling this right now – but I feel it every year.

I simultaneously feel like I’ve overdone the Christmas presents while also not having done enough.

I feel like I’ve gone too far, I’ve spent too much, they don’t need so much stuff. They just don’t a pile of presents to make Christmas wonderful.

On the other hand… I feel like I’ve not done enough. There’s no big present. There’s no trampoline, or bike, or console, tablet or computer. There’s nothing there that’s amazing. Because they really need none of these things. But there’s no “OMG WOW” moment under my tree.

Last night we got all the way to the online check out buy the kids an Xbox before closing the window and putting away the credit card.

They Just Don’t Need It

They already have two consoles. And the only game they would particularly want on the Xbox is Minecraft. Which they already have on the Wii U, the computer AND on a mobile device. THEY DON’T NEED FOUR VERSIONS OF THE SAME GAME.

But all I could see in my mind was that moment when they unwrap the controllers. That moment when their eyes would light up when they’d realise what they were for. That moment. That’s all. I don’t actually even want them to have another thing that they sit inside glued to a screen! I just wanted the joy of giving them something incredible.

Which means really the motivation is all about me and nothing about what I think is actually best for them.

How did this even happen?!? Eleven months of the year I’m so frugal and sensible with money. And so anti-stuff-for-the-sake-of-stuff. But Christmas just makes something snap inside me.

My Childhood Christmas Wasn’t Like This

Growing up we got a couple of presents from our parents under the tree, one or two presents from “Santa” and then a bunch of “stocking stuffers”. And our “stocking stuffers” were things like chocolate, sugary cereal, and soft drink. Actually my parents are GENIUSES because we weren’t allowed to have things like Coco Pops and Fruit Loops, but Oh well if Santa brought them what can we do about it.

So, as children we were legitimately thrilled to get cereal for Christmas. CEREAL. Thrilled.

It’s Not About The Presents

It could just be the relentless pressure of the consumerism associated with Christmas. But I suspect I know what’s at the heart of this issue for me. We don’t have much in the way of family around. My mum and brother will come, but there’s no big extended family or close community of local friends. There won’t be children running around everywhere. We won’t spill out into the front of the house for a game of cricket with whoever is around. It’ll just be us. And I don’t feel like we’re enough. So nothing I get them will feel like enough. Because nothing will recreate my own childhood Christmases.

But my kids don’t know the difference. So they don’t actually feel like they’re missing out on anything. So it’s really not a problem. It’s all fine.

And I really really really don’t need to get them an Xbox to make their Christmas magical. Christmas IS magical. And we ARE enough. And breaking out budget to get them stuff they don’t need won’t make them appreciate things more. The more they have the less value it’ll all have.

So the best gift I can give them is appreciating what they get. And the only way to do that is lead by example and for me to be satisfied with what I’m giving them.

Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner. Rachel is obsessed prams, car seats, carriers and all things baby. She has worked in the baby industry for several years, for both suppliers and also in a retail setting and has developed a passion for connecting parents with the right products to make their lives easier. When Rachel isn't playing with prams she's enjoys crocheting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.


  1. We decided last minute our “big present” would have to wait another year. So I then felt as though I hadn’t done enough for them for Xmas. Went out and splurged in Kmart- I now have way too much. I got cereal for their Santa sacks as it’s a tradition from my husband- that’s the thing they’ll be excited for!

    1. I did the same. Yesterday I went to kmart and loaded up on things. So now I feel like they have too many individual items, and nothing that’s particularly valuable. Though half of what I got them are still also practical – like new goggles for swimming lessons and clothes.

  2. We have done this for at least 5 years now and we ask our family to create memories with their gifts, rather than give them stuff. The kids have taken on that Santa brings them something they want, something they need etc etc They get creative sometimes and I don’t mind, it shows they are thinking about whether they really really want something or just filling a token space in our house

  3. We focus on experiences throughout the season and getting things they need (but also want) such as bikes this year, books, iPad covers etc. The lists they write are pretty practical. Then we focus on seeing the lights, baking together, doing nice things for other people and other Christmas activities.

  4. We’ve ordered everything online and sent it to Tasmania because we’ll be there for Christmas. I feel very nervous about having too much/not enough ?‍♀️

  5. Oh gosh, I really relate to your last paragraph about worrying that you’re not enough. I’ve never put words to it, but I think I do try to overcompensate for that same reason. Heaven knows we don’t need more stuff!

  6. I can relate to this and always feel like I’m spoilong them on the one hand, but if I don’t do that I feel bad because ‘it’s Christmas ‘ and that means loads of presents. Good post!

  7. Ever since I started following the want/need/wear/read and making Santa sacks identical year after year, I don’t struggle with this issue. In fact, some years I’ve struggled to buy just to fill the gap, because it feels like tat.

  8. So true! I’m auditing and wrapping now and feeling like there’s sooo much but it’s not enough. I think I need to call it though. There’s not enough room for more!

  9. I think most of us feel the same way! Fingers crossed I’ve got the balance right – at least they all have the same number of presents this year so no chance of fights or upset…hopefully!

    1. I struggle with that actually ! There’s so many things I could buy for one child and the other is so hard to buy for. It’s so hard to keep it balanced between them.

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