A survey from the Children's Society found 28% of families expect to borrow cash to get through the festive season, with those in London, the North East of England and Wales being particularly likely to do so.
More than half (54%) of families who have already found themselves in problem debt this year plan to borrow more to cover the cost of Christmas, the research found.
Families were considered to have problem debt if it had fallen behind on the repayments of bills or credit commitments. Families with debt, but who were keeping up with payments were not included as being in problem debt.
The research among 2,000 people found that, on average, parents spend £340 on Christmas presents alone.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said: "All parents - particularly those who are struggling - need to be aware how difficult it can be to shake off Christmas debt.
"No one wants children to miss out on the fun and excitement of Christmas, but neither would anyone wish parents to wake up on New Year's Day with a nasty hangover of debt."
The Children's Society, as part of its Debt Trap campaign, is calling for more support for families with children who fall behind on bills and repayments. It wants to see a 12-month "breathing space" scheme introduced, to give struggling parents a period of protection to put their finances back on track.
Here are the percentages of families who expect to borrow money to cover costs of Christmas by region, according to the Children's Society:
- North West, 17%
- North East, 37%
- Yorkshire and the Humber, 11%
- East Midlands, 25%
- West Midlands, 23%
- East Anglia, 18%
- London, 36%
- South East, 28%
- South West, 30%
- Wales, 43%