01/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

If Christmas Were a Dream

One of my favorite things to do, besides thinking about what dreams mean, is thinking about what real-life events would mean if they were dreams. So for my last post before the Big Three holidays (Solstice, my daughter's birthday, and Christmas), I thought I'd have some fun analyzing some of our favorite holiday traditions for their possible dream meanings.

I am sure Freud would have had a field day with anyone having visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Just what are sugarplums? Depending on your source, they were either plums preserved in sugar syrup, or candies made in the shape of small plums.

The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols says that in dreams, plums betray a craving for sexual satisfaction. The color purple is associated with passion, and all that sweet round fruit does suggest certain, um, shapes and flavors of pleasure. Ahem. My advice for anyone dreaming of sugar plums, or figgy pudding for that matter, is to find someone sweet and juicy, and stay safe.
One of my daughters' favorite parts of the holiday is hunting down the perfect Christmas tree. When it is finally put up in the living room and decorated, we know the holidays have begun. But if it were a dream, what would this lighted tree mean?

I think of it as a union of opposites. Trees symbolize the ever-renewing cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The soil is transformed into sap, rises through the trunk of the tree and out its limbs and turns into leaf and fruit, which eventually fall to earth and rot, creating more soil. Except the tree in our living room, though fragrant and beautiful, is pretty much dead. We end its life and cart it home to remind us of the eternal cycle of life that it represents.

Now consider the lights and ornaments. Color in dreams often indicates our emotions. People who dream in color tend to exhibit a wider range of emotional response than those who dream in black and white, but individual colors can symbolize all sorts of things. For example, green can mean envy, growth, money, healing, sickness, or all of the above.

Decking the halls with colors of every hue is another harmonizing of opposites. We celebrate the range of human emotions, and the range of experience that life brings. Also, shining a light in the darkest time of the year means having hope, celebrating the spark of new life emerging from a world enfolded in darkness.

My favorite ornament color is gold, and I love a gold star on the top of my tree. In the Christian myth it represents the star that shone over Bethlehem, but the symbolism of gold, and stars, is far more ancient than that. Stars were linked to destiny, and it was thought that every person alive had a star guiding them.

Gold in dreams has always been a sign that something priceless, pure, and authentic is being revealed. I follow gold in dreams just like those wise men followed that star in the sky. Even if it is a very minor part of the dream, gold is always worth paying attention to. And I consider it mandatory to have that gold star at the top of my tree, harmonizing with all the other colors of the rainbow, celebrating light in the darkest hour.

The Buddhists would say that all of life is a dream, and that our purpose here is to remember that we are dreaming. That seems like an extra credit assignment that I may not finish in this lifetime, but I like having an optimistic goal to aim for. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, no matter where we are, it is good for the soul to be looking at the stars.