Christmas brings a different kind of busyness than the rest of the year. Each year when, seemingly overnight, everything gets draped in tinsel and holly, we face the familiar schedule challenges and emotional challenges. And that’s on top of our daily routines. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to do everything for everyone. However, if you’re just preparing for one celebration after another and not enjoying the process, that is a hint that it’s time to scale back your holiday plans and expectations—and that’s OK.
As much as we may want to stick to annual customs, some traditions naturally fall by the wayside as our lives and families change. I enjoy Christmas, but I find that I no longer want to do all the Christmas things every year. A few years ago, I’d be dashing around with a mile-long holiday to-do list and a calendar full of parties, but now I carefully choose how to spend this time. I participate in the season in smaller and quieter ways. While some people embrace post-Black Friday shopping, I don’t care for the elbow-to-elbow madness of a mall in December. I shop before the rush, and usually at night. I consider the beautiful decorations I could display—and then I remember that each January I’m less excited about the task of putting them away. So, instead of pushing myself to perform all the customary Christmas rituals that don’t fit into my life right now, I take this time to reflect. I think about who and what really matters, I reminisce, and I spend my time making meaningful connections. When I consider what I truly value about the season, this reflection is one tradition that I want to keep.
With everything that changes about Christmas over the years, there’s one thing that is always the same and it doesn’t demand much of you: Christmas music. Even on the busiest or most challenging December days, hearing a familiar tune can make me feel more connected to the season. When I want to feel a little more Christmassy (or maybe even shake off a Scrooge-like attitude), I turn on some carols.
Most days in the office, I hear a chorus of voices all day long, but they’re not singing carols. The Christmas music usually finds me (or I find it) in my car. It’s a simple way to cheer and warm my cold December commute. I’ve been hearing these songs at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. I know them by heart. The voices of Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby, among others, remind me of the whimsy and beauty of the holiday. Lately, I have more time for listening to music than for playing music. But, playing piano is still a big part of my life and my Christmas experience.
Click on the image below to listen to me playing one of my all-time favorite classics, Auld Lang Syne. The lyrics encourage us to remember our past as we face the days ahead, to value our important relationships, and to share from our cups of kindness, so it’s especially appropriate for the holiday season (especially when paired with a glass of champagne).
Happy holidays to you and your family!
Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 2012 from Boston University School of Medicine. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Erika is the Executive Director and Founder of Science from Scientists, an award-winning, National non-profit which sends real, charismatic scientists into classrooms to improve the attitudes and aptitudes of 3rd-8th-grade students in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). She is also the CEO and co-founder of Ixcela, a biotechnology company aimed at developing tests and interventions to improve gut microbiome efficacy and health.