By Brittney Ryan
Holly Claus asks children, “What do you dream to be, and what will your special dream contribute to the world?” She inspires them to reflect on how their dreams will help others; to see that aspiration, imagination, and hope are what make us who we are; and to realize that they are capable of marvelous things. I have seen the magic of Holly Claus’s story and been forever changed by it. My dream is that one day, Holly Dreamtrees will be lit in town plazas everywhere, their branches hung with the dreams of all the world.
The first Holly Dreamtree went up in the San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso. I had been visiting schools and bookstores and putting on events in the community to promote my novel The Legend of Holly Claus and my new picture book The Christmas Princess. I invited everyone to write down their dreams and what they would contribute to the world and bring them to Holly’s magical Dreamtree lighting.
As thousands of families gathered in the plaza, the snow began to fall. Christmas had arrived. When I invited the children to hang their dreams on the tree, they brought them in both hands. There was a little girl in a yellow dress who had brought not just her dream, but her violin. When she told me she wanted to be a concert violinist, I asked her to play for the audience. When she did, I could see her playing in symphonies one day. At that moment, my Holly events stopped feeling like promotional things, and from that day onward, I was on a mission. I knew that Holly and her Dreamtrees could touch the world.
Children write their dreams on Holly Claus stationary or on paper snowflakes. After the Dreamtrees come down, I save every single dream. I must have thousands. A little girl wrote, “Holly, I want to be a family therapist. My dream will contribute to the world by keeping families from being broken up.” Many children say they want to become physicians or researchers so they can find cures for diseases, or become performers or artists to inspire people. They bring their wishes to Santa Claus, but their dreams to Holly. That’s what sets her apart from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and even Elsa—Holly invites children to enter the story. She inspires them to bring their dreams to the tree in both hands.
A few winters ago, a ballet company contacted me. The choreographer said “I cannot do another Nutcracker. I’ve been searching for the next classic Christmas ballet, and I’ve found it in Holly Claus.” When the Holly Claus Ballet of Dreams opened, the performances were sold out—2,500 seats a night. Every night, six hundred or more children brought their dreams on paper snowflakes for Holly to hang on the Dreamtree in the Dreamland sequence. One night, in the deserted foyer, I found a six-year-old boy running around with tears on his face. He told me he had lost his dream. The doors had closed, the curtain was about to rise, and he was frantic. We scoured the lobby. His dream had fallen under one of the tables. When we found it, he held it close and thanked me. Watching him run back into the theater to hang his dream on the Dreamtree brought home to me how important it is to help people find the dreams they’ve lost.
Once, I put all the dreams I had accumulated on a wall. When I stepped back, I saw it—this is what the world will look like in twenty or thirty years. This is our future, because these are our dreamers.
Brittney Ryan is the New York Times Best selling author of the Christmas classic The Legend of Holly Claus, which is part of the Julie Andrews Collection.