Releasing 2020 with a fake tree and TV fireplace?


Certainly, the year 2020 will go down in our history books, personal journals, and perhaps our recipe books. But what about our year-end celebrations? This year, we’ve experienced a world around us full of conflict socially, interpersonally, and even within ourselves. Knowing some of these are over, yet some still lingering, how do we ritualize a year’s end when not all of these are tied up nicely with a bow?

Thinking about this, the word that keeps popping in my head is “grace.” Sitting next to my artificial Christmas tree and looking at the video of a fireplace on my television has been strangely calming to me lately, almost mesmerizing. OK, I know they’re fake, but it takes me to a meditative state fairly quickly and allows me to just slow down, relax, and be in the moment. And for now, even a simulation of something calm is welcoming.

Usually, at the end of a year, we would look back at our challenges, successes, and failures and release them all into the universe; feeling the relief or accomplishment that this year is coming to an end. But with our current COVID-19 conditions, it seems as if we’re stuck in Groundhog Day with no end in sight. Yes, we have a glimmer of hope with vaccines in our future. Yes, most of us have adjusted to physically distancing and wearing a mask in public. But like a kid in the back seat on a long road trip, we just want to know, “When are we gonna get there?” How long are we going to be stuck in this small container for hours on end with these same people and no elbow room? Realistically, with the pandemic, we know it won’t be soon. So how can we give each other and ourselves a bit of grace? How can we move on to more of the same?

At least with the elections (with the exception of Georgia), we know they’re over. Whether we’re celebrating or mourning the outcomes, at least we know they’re over for another couple of years. When we know something is done, we can ritualize it with a rite-of-passage, funeral, or celebration, which most of us have probably done by now with the elections. But if we’re not happy about the election outcome, how can we be at peace with “what is?”

As we’re going into 2021, knowing we’re in for many more months of the same, stuck in an unending “COVID road trip” at home, how do we vision for a bright hopeful 2021 future?

Can my fake Christmas tree with my Star of David tree topper and TV fireplace actually help me transcend? From the Buddhist perspective, perhaps. No matter what’s going on around me, whether it be suffering or joy, if I can become one with my simulated hearth and tree and be fully present, maybe I can be elevated to a higher consciousness of acceptance of “what is.” So, even if it’s fake, if it can help me in the moment to feel more peace, I’m in.

So, if your fake Christmas tree or televised fireplace helps you live moment to moment through the end of this year, I say go for it. Better to give yourself some grace than to live miserably into oblivion.

Former Colorado state senator, now with a master’s in Social Justice and Ethics from Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell is a writer, speaker, facilitator, and conflict consultant.,,, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.

Linda Newell


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