Is the fake tree dusted? Are the presents wrapped already? Have you thought of a way to escape annoying family members at the party? You are probably not the only one wishing for real snow, a real tree, and in particular: an exciting way of celebrating Christmas where unexpected events will enchant you...Well, grab your broomstick and travel to a remote place in the mountains of Scotland. Cross the Loch, evade the Whomping Willow and carefully skid down your broom into the huge piles of fluffy snow covering the grounds of our favourite castle: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. What place is better to enjoy a Christmas dinner than the Great Hall, decorated with the twelve (authentic) frost-covered trees, enchanted snow and glittering icicles? Perhaps you even get the chance to pop one of Cribbages’ Wizarding Crackers and hear some of Peeves the Poltergeist’s ‘adapted’ versions of the traditional carols.
Of course, Christmas is a special time anywhere around the world, but Harry Potter in particular experiences marvellous days in this period of the year. The grounds of Hogwarts are lit by fluttering fairies, portraits are getting tipsy of too much liquor, and eager house elves prepare a myriad of dishes and puddings. It is probably the only place where mistletoe is a threat, as it might be inhabited by Nargles – if you are willing to trust Luna Lovegood. Hogwarts’ Christmases are not only unique because of the decorations and feasts however. Without the presents and opportunities Christmas provides, Harry would never have been able to go through all of his adventures. The Dursleys might send him ‘generous’ gifts such as a toothpick, but what would he be without the Marauders’ Map, or his Invisibility Cloak? Let’s have a look at the aspects of the consecutive Christmases of the ‘boy-who-lived’.
His first year at Hogwarts is also the very first time that Harry receives Christmas presents. His pile of packages contains a Weasley Jumper – hand knitted of course – Chocolate Frogs, and the Cloak of Invisibility. This special garment is the beginning of Harry’s roaming the corridors at night and discovering secrets such as the Mirror of Erised (desire spelt backwards). In fact, the Cloak will prove of great value throughout his adventures in all of the books. Another significant present is the early Christmas gift of the Weasley twins in his third year: the Marauders’ Map. This map enables Harry to visit Hogsmeade, the nearby village where all kinds of shops dealing in magical merchandise are located. While eavesdropping on some teachers in the Three Broomsticks, Harry discovers how his parents were betrayed by their best friend, which sets quite an important part of the plot in motion.
Indeed, for Harry and his friends Christmas is not a quiet period at all. In many of the books an opportunity for something, or important turn in the story, seems to be created by the festive circumstances. The Polyjuice Potion, for instance, is drunk at Christmas day by the companions to try to discover more about the heir of Slytherin. No comfortable digesting for the friends after tea, but straight unto solving another mystery.
Or the Yule ball; Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts proves to be an unconventional one, as everything is accommodated for the Triwizard Tournament. Naturally, with two sister schools (Durmstrang and Beauxbatons) on the grounds, a traditional Christmas is not enough. When Harry and Ron are tired of dancing, they discover quite some secrets: the discussion of Snape and Karkaroff about death-eaters business, Hagrid confessing to be a half-giant in the gardens, and a way of dealing with the enigma of the golden egg.
From Hogwarts in the first four books the setting of Christmas shifts to other places in the following parts. First of all, in book five Harry visits the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. However, the gloomy atmosphere of Grimmauld Place does not prevent him from having a merry time altogether. After surviving a kiss with Cho Chang in the Room of Requirement, a vision of Voldemort’s snake attacking Ron’s dad and the subsequent idea of being possessed by his enemy, Harry can finally be cheered up by Sirius’s songs. He does not know that lessons of Occlumency await him after this.
Secondly, in Harry’s sixth year Christmas is spread over different places: Hogwarts and the Burrow, the cosy house of the Weasleys. With Lord Voldemort officially returned, Harry is trying to figure out what role Draco Malfoy plays in his plans. Professor Slughorn’s Christmas Party unexpectedly provides an opportunity for this: when following Snape and Malfoy, Harry’s suspicions of both Slytherins increase. A more comforting thought is his stay at the Burrow with his friends in yet another Christmassy atmosphere. Especially the memorable sight of the garden gnome, painted gold and dressed up in a tutu to represent an angel, is only possible at the Weasleys’.
Unfortunately, Harry neither spends Christmas Eve in a decorated castle nor at his second most favourite place in the world in the last book, but in the extremely cheerful ambiance of a graveyard. In their search after Horcruxes Harry and Hermione (as you probably remember Ron left them after a row) resort to visit Godric’s Hollow, the place where Harry’s parents lived before they were murdered. They hope to find Gryffindor’s sword with Bathilda Bagshot, the author of A History of Magic. It proves to be a more disastrous Christmas than ever, as Harry finds himself in a precarious trap; Bagshot is possessed by the snake of Voldemort. Both he and Hermione escape in the nick of time, at the cost of Harry’s wand. Luckily, a few days later Ron returns: he rescues Harry from drowning in an ice-cold pond in the forest of Dean. A late Christmas present is the discovery of Gryffindor’s sword in the same pond. In any case, there is an abundance of snow.
Indeed, Hogwarts does provide the ultimate atmosphere for a marvellous and charming Christmas party. The decorations, the feast, the white snow instead of the watery black slush generally seen around here; that is an admirable example. So, if you want a Christmas worthy of Hogwarts, dress your little brother or sister up as a house elf, drag along some snow cannons and confiscate a heap of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. But do not expect a relaxed party, because a combination of Harry Potter and Christmas often seems to end up in drinking disgusting potions, having terrifying nightmares, removing Christmas baubles in the shape of your own head or even fighting a deathly snake. Maybe a traditional, yet boring feast with your family under a fake tree is not that bad after all...
by Maj Hansen