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Christmas Traditions: Me vs. the Magical Moms of Pinterest

By Tyler Karlberg

originally published on 12/14/21 for A Little Slack Publishing.

Growing up, I loved everything about the holidays. I remember making krumkake with my grandma, watching classic movies with my little brothers, and running to the tree early on Christmas morning. 

Now that I’m a mom with two kids of my own, I’ve tried to make holidays as special for them as they were for me. We do the cookies. We do the tree and ornaments. We look at lights and wrap the gifts. Good enough, right? Not according to the “Magical-Mom’s of Pinterest” (lovingly referred to by me as MMOPs). These people don’t really exist and are just projections of my insecurities and fabricated inadequacies that social media places on us. But if you’re anything like me, seeing images of over-the-top takes on simple traditions makes me feel like us mere-mortal-mommas just can’t keep up - which is hilarious, since it's pretty much the same as trying to keep up with an Instagram filter version of Christmas. 

From ways to use Santa to threaten children into behaving to insane Elf on the Shelf ideas and Christmas treats that look like they came straight out of Pottery Barn, the internet is plum-pudding full of seasonal wtf’s. Here’s a breakdown of our Christmas traditions and how, if I really loved my kids, I would do better.

Make Gingerbread Houses

How we do:

Perfect! We do that! We buy the cute gingerbread kits and the kids have meltdowns because the walls fall over and the candy slides off the roof from the melty, somewhat separated icing that came in the kit and we take pictures and act like it was a wonderful bonding activity.

How they do:

What’s that? I’m doing it all wrong? 

Hold up…is that, homemade gingerbread? With fricking edible stained glass windows and fondant icicle lights? GTFOutta here. 

Decorate the Cookies

How we do:

Roll the pre-made dough onto a flour covered table (that also has dried glue and yesterday’s dinner on it) and use all your favorite cookie cutters to ineffectively smoosh out delightful shapes that all end up melding together into unrecognizable lumps. Then glob icing, colored with Red 40 and Yellow 5 and a buttload of sugar sprinkles, on each one, rendering them utterly inedible, but so festive. Now let them all ‘dry’ and spend the next several days arguing over who made which one and whose Santa is better than the others. Truly one of my favorite holiday traditions.

How they do:

(photo from - they have the coolest stuff that I will never use!)

Oh, the cookware must be holiday themed, the children must be in monogrammed, matching cooking aprons, and the kitchen has to be straight out of a Williams Sonoma ad? Cool. The recipes for from-scratch dough and homemade frosting have some beautiful story about heritage and love and whatever. I guarantee your 4-year old didn’t do the intricate icing lace on the collar of her RBG cookie. She had help. …right? 

Do that Elf Thing

How we do:

Our elf sometimes appears, and sometimes doesn’t. He doesn’t have a close, personal relationship with Santa and isn’t a narc. He does funny stuff sometimes, and we don’t question where he’s been when he takes a sabbatical or stays in the same spot for several days. You do you, elf, you do you.

How they do:

So, what I’m gathering from the elite Magical-Moms of Pinterest (MMOPs) is that a strategy is created months in advance with elaborate and time-consuming scenarios meant to entertain the children and impress the internet. The elves may leave notes of disapproval when the children have misbehaved (or not finished all of their kale smoothies at breakfast), warning them that Santa is likely to be ticked off if this behavior continues. This is a rare occurrence, however, because these children are almost always impeccably behaved. Naturally.

Instill Fear

How we do:

The old-fashioned way, by saying “Santa’s watching so, get your sh*t together or your stocking’s gonna be full of coal and ZERO Fortnite V-Bucks”. Simple. Yet effective.

How they do:

Leave it to the MMOP’s to take Holiday-threatening to the next level. They really know how to go all-in. My favorite thing I found while scouring the internet for all things Christmas-parenting-related was this meme. Mostly for the ambiguity.

I tried contacting the author of this meme to clarify something for us, but couldn’t identify the original creator. I’m going to assume they meant ‘throw one (box) into the fireplace’, not the child. Regardless, I’ll be using this technique this year.

Fun + Festive Food

How we do:

A simple and cute way to make food fun is by making it a festive color. We do this by adding cookie decorating sugar or food coloring to pretty much whatever, but it's usually applesauce. Valentine’s day applesauce- pink sprinkles. Easter applesauce, bunny sprinkles. Christmas applesauce- red and green sprinkles. See? Fun AND festive!

How they do:

What the...are you kidding me with this? Can we just agree the applesauce is just as good? Or no?


All in all, we are definitely making memories, enjoying traditions and having fun, it just may be a little stickier and with a lot more screaming than in some families. To all the parents out there trying to make a little magic for their families, do what warms your heart that’s within your means, and don’t look to the internet for comparison. Unless you want to look at me and my crew- we’ll make you feel like you’ve got it all together! No matter how you do the holidays, do them with love. The rest is just sprinkles on the cookie.

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