Harry Potter and the Evolving Holidays

Like many schools, Hogwarts allows students a break over the winter holidays. Every year, Harry chooses to stay at the castle rather than return to Surrey to spend Christmas with the Dursleys. Throughout the series, Harry’s holidays change with the world around him, teaching him new lessons every year. From his first presents to Christmas in wartime, we followed Harry through it all.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (200)

Will you look at this? I’ve got some presents!”

“What did you expect, turnips?” said Ron.

Harry woke up Christmas morning in the Gryffindor dormitory expecting nothing but an ordinary day with his best friend. He was astounded at the thought of receiving presents after spending the first decade of his life deprived of any and all holiday cheer. He even loved the sweater that Mrs. Weasley knit for him while Ron was quite appalled at his own annual gift. This Christmas taught Harry kindness comes from unexpected places, like a friend’s mother whom you barely know or an anonymous Headmaster handing down a family heirloom.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

No one, not even someone dreading to take Polyjuice Potion later, could fail to enjoy Christmas dinner at Hogwarts (212).

After another year of presents, including another sweater from Mrs. Weasley, Harry became accustomed to his new wizard family. He spent the entire day with Ron and Hermione and helped himself to as much food as Ron (which we all know is a lot) at the Christmas feast. But Harry learned a valuable lesson this year as well. He learned valuable information regarding the Chamber of Secrets, of course, after his interrogation of Draco Malfoy, but Malfoy also taught him something else. There are truly cruel people in the world who cannot be warmed by the magic of the holidays. Malfoy spent Christmas dinner making fun of Harry’s new sweater and the whole night relishing the attacks on Muggle-borns and hoping for Hermione’s death.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Hogsmeade looked like a Christmas card; the little thatched cottages and shops were all covered in a layer of crisp snow; there were holly wreaths on the doors and strings of enchanted candles hanging in the trees (200).

Harry’s first visit to Hogsmeade was a delight, at first. He went to Zonko’s with Ron and Hermione and sat down at the Three Broomsticks for a tankard of delicious, hot butterbeer. All was well until Professor McGonagall, Cornelius Fudge, and Rubeus Hagrid took a secret meeting with Madam Rosmerta. After sneaking into the meeting room under his Invisibility Cloak, Harry learned secrets behind the deaths of his parents that were too terrible to imagine. This was the year that Harry learned that not everyone has a happy Christmas; in fact, some people receive horrible news at Christmas. The “magic” of the holiday is not enough to keep bad things from happening, but it is a time to keep friends and family close. Love has a strange magic of alleviating pain, which is also something Harry learned this Christmas.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (423)

This whole tournament’s supposed to be about getting to know foreign wizards and making friends with them!” said Hermione.

While this quote was captured in a rather heated argument, Hermione’s words are absolutely true. Fourth year was a big year for Harry and learning the value of acceptance. On one Christmas, Harry was confronted with no less than three different forms of wizard racism and classism. The first one to visit Harry was Dobby, who spent his wages to buy yarn in order to knit Harry a crude pair of socks. Dobby was overwhelmed to receive anything in return to the point of tears. We got to listen in on different conversations about the Christmas traditions of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Ron explained to Harry why Hagrid would keep his half-giant parentage a secret. Everywhere Harry looked there was judgment, but he saw past all of it. He proudly wore Dobby’s socks to the Yule Ball, as silly as they looked. He didn’t pass judgment on Viktor or Fleur’s stories, and he certainly did not express any animosity toward his friend Hagrid, despite his lineage.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (515)

Well, we’d better get back,” sighed Mrs. Longbottom, drawing on long green gloves. “Very nice to have met you all. Neville, put that wrapper in the bin, she must have given you enough of them to paper your bedroom by now…”

But as they left, Harry was sure he saw Neville slip the wrapper into his pocket.

While visiting Mr. Weasley in St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny stumbled upon Neville Longbottom and his grandmother spending Christmas with Frank and Alice Longbottom. Frank and Alice were in the long-stay resident ward due to their mental instability after being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry knew some of the details, but the rest of the group was completely surprised by Neville’s Christmas plans. It was hard to believe that someone could be having a more difficult holiday than they were, concerned over Arthur’s injuries from the Department of Mysteries. Harry learned this year that you can never truly know what someone else is going through, whether it be at Christmas or any time of the year. Ron dreaded handknit sweaters from his mother every year while Neville treasured old candy wrappers his mother gave him. This Christmas was a lesson in perspective for all of our young heroes.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (341)

There was a moment’s painful silence. Then Percy said rather stiffly, ‘Merry Christmas, Mother.’

The only thing worse than betrayal is betrayal by a family member. Percy Weasley had turned his back on his family in favor of his shiny new job at the Ministry. His appearance at Christmas dinner took everyone by surprise, and only one person was happy about it: Molly Weasley. The love a mother has for her children is one of the most important themes of the Harry Potter series. Even small moments like these show just how much mothers care, and Molly Weasley is an incredibly loving mother, for her own children and for Harry. While the family holds a grudge, the mother welcomes the betrayer back with open arms and forgives him. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to learn, but it is one of the simplest ways to show love. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

He was on the point of taking out the Marauder’s Map, so as to watch Ginny’s dot for a while, before he remembered that it was the Christmas holidays and that she would be back at the Burrow (365).

At the young age of 17, Harry had to learn the painful lesson of loneliness. This was a different loneliness than he had grown up with in the Dursleys’ home. He was trapped in the Forest of Dean away from his friends and girlfriend on a mission of the war against Voldemort. He knew he was doing the right thing by tracking down Horcruxes, but he felt empty without love in his life. There were no presents this year; no feast, no new socks or sweaters, no Christmas tree. Harry and Hermione were alone in hiding during a terrible time, something that many others have faced before them. Soldiers, refugees, and citizens all around the world have felt this way before. It is another painful lesson in perspective that has not dulled with time.

J.K. Rowling used Christmas in a very subtle way throughout the Harry Potter series. When people think of life lessons from Harry Potter, they usually default to lasting Dumbledore quotes and the triumph of love over hate. But there are so many more lessons to be learned from this beautiful series. Judgment and forgiveness were two of the main themes through Harry’s wizarding Christmases. Hopefully, we can all take these experiences and apply them in our own lives. Forgive those who have wronged you this holiday season, and do not judge people you do not understand. No one experiences the same Christmas or holiday because we all lead different lives. Remember that, Harry Potter fans.