“Alexa, turn on Christmas.”

This is what I have been reduced to. An invisible woman in a little round box has become the purveyor of my Christmas spirit. It is a bit unsettling, like the wife of Hal from 2001 has moved in.

Without a word, Alexa clicks on the lights on the Christmas tree, and voila, Christmas is here. Except it isn’t.

I remember one Christmas, when I was a jaded teenager, when nothing could put me in the Christmas spirit: not the incessant run of holiday movies, not the tinsel-weighted tree, not the smell of the cinnamon rolls my mother made every year for all the friends and business associates who would drop by to wish us a merry one. One cold morning I stood on the kitchen heat register, munching a cinnamon roll, and wondered, “When is my Christmas spirit going to come?”

I didn’t know then that Christmas spirit arrives on the quiet tippy toes of tradition. It is the cookie decorating party I throw every year and the baking for weeks in preparation. It is shopping with my daughters and pausing for a gossipy, laughter-filled lunch in a sparkly restaurant. It is wrestling in the cold with that dang spruce topper on the front porch. None of those things are happening this year, except the wrestling match, which the topper won (again).

Pandemic-fearful, election-ruined 2020 has delivered a death blow to tradition in our house. Is it like that way with you? Are you too tired or worried or sick to pursue the traditions you love and yearn for?

The bizarreness of 2020 reminds me of a Dolly Parton song called “The Grass Is Blue,” which tells the story of a woman so heartbroken that to survive she pretends the opposite is true. To this poor woman, the eagles can’t fly, the sky is green, and crying is fun. That is how 2020 looks to me. We are living in Oppositeland.

In Oppositeland, truth is a lie. Toilet paper is as valuable as gold. Upstanding citizens, not bandits, wear masks. We cannot hug those we love. And we cannot gather like those undefeatable Whos in Whoville for one family-filled feast.

Oppositeland is even evident in my holiday decorating. Sure, the tree is up and looking magnificent in its own lopsided way (my three-year-old tree decorator has done her usual bang-up job). It is the “extras” that have fallen by the wayside: the balls that dropped off the tree and I never replaced, the nutcracker that never found his usual home, the muddled pile of decorations that never made it off the dining room table, which we won’t be using anyway (see cancelled cookie party). The Christmas stockings are not hung with care; they’re in a messy pile on the hearth.

I fear that Oppositeland has lodged an arrow in my socially distanced heart.

But then I take a winter walk in nature where traditions are cyclical and only human-propelled climate change can alter them. I breathe the cold air, listen to the wind in the pines, maybe feel a snowflake on my cheek. And my spirit rights itself.

Yes, the grass was blue in 2020, and I’m not sure what next year will bring. Perhaps the grass will be orange with purple tips, like a dye job gone awry. I just know 2021 will be something different, probably with new traditions, and I’m okay with that. I don’t want to go back to normal. I want something better—for us, our children, and you.

Until then, as Alexa says, “Sweet dreams, and have a nice sleep.”


While waiting for your Christmas spirit, get into the mystery spirit with Down Dog Diary, Warrior’s Revenge, and Crow Calling.