Have a Harry Potter Christmas
by Ari and Linn Armstrong
The following article originally was published in an abbreviated version on December 7, 2009, by Grand Junction's Free Press.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out on video on December 8, in plenty of time for Christmas. Your younger author's book Values of Harry Potter (ValuesOfHarryPotter.com) makes an excellent addition to tree or stocking.
What lessons do these magical novels hold for the magical Christmas season?
In his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry elects to stay at school over the holiday rather than return to his dreadful aunt and uncle.
Harry's enemy, Draco Malfoy, taunts, "I do feel so sorry for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they're not wanted at home."
Yet Harry is pleased to stay at the school with his friends the Weasleys and some of his teachers, who decorate the school gloriously. Harry and Ron Weasley enjoy eating treats by the fire and playing chess.
Harry never got any real presents from his aunt and uncle, either for Christmas or his birthday. Harry didn't expect presents this year, either. "When he woke early in the morning, however, the first thing he saw was a small pile of packages at the foot of his bed."
Harry's friend Hagrid had whittled him a flute, while Ron's mother had knit him a sweater and made him fudge. Harry also receives a magical cloak that makes its wearer invisible, passed on from his deceased father by an unknown friend.
George Weasley says, "Christmas is a time for family." Yet Harry realizes that we can make our own family. Mistreated by his blood relations, Harry finds his family in his friends at Hogwarts.
For his second Christmas at the school, Harry again enjoys exchanging gifts with friends and eating a magnificent feast. But this holiday Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione also plan some serious business.
The three suspect Malfoy is up to something nasty. A creature is on the loose, attacking students whose parents aren't "pure" wizards. So Harry and his friends drink a potion to make them look like Malfoy's cohorts so that they can spy.
When things are going well, Christmas involves relaxing, enjoying treats, and goofing around. But Christmas is also about living up to our responsibilities of keeping our loved ones safe.
Harry begins his third Christmas holiday at Hogwarts helping Hermione research legal cases in an effort to help Buckbeak, a creature beloved by Hagrid unjustly sentenced to death.
Harry again enjoys presents and feasts with friends. Yet this year Ron and Hermione bicker about their pets. (Hermione's cat has it in for Ron's rat.) The atmosphere strains again when Harry receives a superb new broomstick, which a teacher seizes thanks to Hermione's nosiness. Both Hermione and the teacher fear the gift was sent by an escaped criminal to harm Harry.
Christmas is not always idyllic. Friendships can suffer and overcome rough times and disagreements. Gifts are not always good for us. Sometimes a true friend has to make a tough and bothersome decision.
On Christmas day of Harry's fourth year, Harry is awakened with a start by Dobby, a house elf Harry had previously freed from slavery. Dobby had taken paid work at Hogwarts, and he was excited to give Harry a present.
Harry, having forgotten to get anything for Dobby, gives him a pair of old socks. But Dobby is delighted, for as a slave he was forbidden from wearing clothes. He says, "Socks are Dobby's favorite, favorite clothes, sir!"
Dobby in return gives Harry a pair of handmade socks decorated with broomsticks, made with wool purchased out of Dobby's wages. Harry doesn't really like the socks, but Dobby's real gift is far greater, his sincere friendship. Dobby's boundless enthusiasm even for token gifts reminds us that Christmas is mainly about the wealth of relationships.
With the fifth book, Order of the Phoenix, the Potter series takes a darker turn, as the evil Lord Voldemort has regained power. Harry's godfather is cheerful because of the holiday company, but Harry feels isolated and confused, having witnessed Voldemort's violence through a mysterious mental connection with the dark wizard.
Harry's friends shake him out of his dour mood. "Stop feeling all misunderstood," Hermione tells him. Ginny Weasley tells Harry to stop hiding from his friends. His isolation is "a bit stupid," she adds.
Despite the dangers they face, Harry's friends clean the house to sparkling, decorate the tree, and exchange presents.
Mrs. Weasley too was having a rough time because of a fight with one of her sons. Yet the gang do what they can to comfort her. Sometimes Christmas is about facing our fears, comforting our friends, and making the best of gloomy times.
Neville's grandmother realizes that Neville had never told his friends about his parents. She says, "They didn't give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them." Neville answers, "I'm not ashamed."
Neville's mother hands him a gum wrapper. On their way out his grandmother tells him to throw it away, but Neville slips the wrapper into his pocket. Aside from his memories, it is the only Christmas memento Neville gets from his mother. Sometimes such heartbreak is part of Christmas, too.
During Harry's sixth wizarding Christmas romance is the talk at the Weasley household, despite the continued threat of Voldemort. For Harry it is a day for truth-telling. The Minister of Magic visits Harry and asks him to feign support of the Ministry. Harry tells the Minister, "I don't like some of the things the Ministry's doing," such as locking up an innocent person as a scapegoat.
In Deathly Hallows, the final book, Christmas finds Harry in serious peril. Harry and his friends wanders the country, hiding from Voldemort's forces while trying to find a way to defeat the dark wizard.
On a cold and snowy Christmas Eve, Harry visits his parents' grave. He sees a war memorial there with a statue of his parents, who gave their lives fighting Voldemort so that Harry could live.
Finally Harry finds his parents. The tombstone reads, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Then "Hermione raised her wand, moved it in a circle through the air, and a wreath of Christmas roses blossomed before them. Harry caught it and laid it on his parents' grave."
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