Emotional HealthParenting 5 minutes to read

Around the age of six I became enamored with the holidays. I liked all the typical things you expect a child that age would love about Christmas—cookies, gifts, Christmas lights—but this was something different. This was when I realized how important the magic and feeling of Christmas was to me and I wanted others to feel it too.

Every Christmas Eve throughout my entire childhood, we would go to a family gathering at my grandparents’ house. We would eat food, the cousins would play, and of course there were always gifts. We would stay there soooo late and I remember putting on new Christmas jammies for the drive home. In the mere 20 minute drive, my sister and I would always fall asleep and my dad would carry us to our beds. I felt like I had Christmas magic sparkling all over me on the drive home and as my dad carried me in the house. It was so special. 

As we got older, the group of cousins grew and we had so much fun playing on Christmas Eve. Being the oldest cousin and a take-charge kind of girl, I decided I wanted to organize a small Christmas music program for me and my cousins to perform for the family. This was when I realized that the right music really brought Christmas to life for me and organizing a performance helped me share this with others. These little performances happened year after year after year. 

My love for music continued as I grew up. I took violin lessons and played in orchestras. I performed at church, played violin for the worship team, and sang in choirs. Music took over a lot of my time and the Christmas season was no exception. With Christmas concerts, special church services, nursing home events, and family gatherings—I really couldn’t experience Christmas without the busyness of playing music.  

Shortly after college, I heard about a local Christmas choir that sang to raise money for the food bank and they needed a violinist for the orchestra. I was already pretty involved in playing violin for church, teaching violin lessons, and organizing a Christmas violin recital—but this was Christmas and what was Christmas without playing a lot of music? With weekly rehearsals starting in October and then 12 performances in December, it was a huge commitment. But for me, Christmas without a lot of music commitments, wasn’t a thing. For the next four Christmas seasons I played with the choir. The music was beautiful and for a good cause but the month of December zoomed by so fast and I spent so much of it on the go and busy playing music.

Being consumed with performing during the Christmas season took a detour after I had my first baby. That Christmas, I was pregnant with my second, chasing around a 10 month old and getting creative with clearing clutter. That’s another story but you can read about it in my blog, Boxed Up. It’s a good laugh and unfortunately I still have some of those Christmas boxes in my attic.

Fast forward to the present. My 10 month old baby is now almost 9 years old. It’s been over 25 years since I started orchestrating those Christmas programs with my cousins and nearly 30 years since I received my very first violin on Christmas morning. My love for music and what it means at Christmas really does run so deep. Maybe it’s because my first violin was a meaningful Christmas gift. Or maybe it’s from the first time I heard the sweet words of Happy Birthday Jesus or the power of O Holy Night performed on stage. Whatever the reason, my passion for music at Christmastime has stayed with me all these years. 

But you know what I’m not doing anymore? I’m not running ragged this Christmas, darting around performing all over the place, and I couldn’t be happier about it. 

This is an intentional boundary I have been setting the last couple of years and it’s helped me to slow down so much. Instead of being in performance mode so many days of the month and getting drained from going going going, I’m experiencing music this Christmas in a different way. I’m teaching my kids Christmas songs on the piano and learning new piano songs myself. I’m practicing violin-piano duets to play with my mom for fun. My first instinct was to suggest we play our violin-piano duo at a nursing home but, on second thought, I’ve realized it’s okay to just play music and enjoy it—even at Christmas. 

Christmas has taken on a new rhythm for me in the last few years and I know it has to do with having intentional boundaries. There are so many aspects of our lives that are bombarded by Christmas and many can be easily neglected as we continue to go through the motions year after year. But, there is still time to change this approach. 

Whether it’s a tradition, a habit, a family event, a church gathering—YOU can decide to create an intentional boundary that is best for you and your family. You may not like it at first. Your family may not like it at first. It may surprise people. It may upset people. But when you see the boundary through and you experience the relief of doing things a little differently, you will know you made the right choice. And chances are, you will find a way to approach that part of Christmas from a whole new perspective. 

  • Make the choice that is right for you and your family. 
  • Make the choice that keeps you from being triggered. 
  • Make the choice that protects you emotionally. 
  • Make the choice that means less stress. 
  • Make the choice to embrace a calmer Christmas.

Christmas doesn’t have to look like it has in the past and there is nothing wrong with that. Walk in the simplicity of the season and feel the magic as you experience a more meaningful Christmas this year.

Anna Philipsen

Anna is the Event & Project Manager for Pure Desire. Her background is in event planning and social media. Anna has a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Health Education from George Fox University, and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). She is a leader for Pure Desire women's groups and a contributing author to Unraveled: Managing Love, Sex, and Relationships.

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