Lessons in Surviving the Holiday Blues from “Harry Potter”
Growing up, I used to love celebrating the holidays with my family. The best day of the year was always my grandparents’ annual Christmas Eve party. The love and comfort I felt from my seat at the kids’ table all those years make up some of my most cherished memories.
Then, things changed. My grandparents passed away when I was in middle school; relatives moved away; and the holidays became a more difficult time in my life. While I live with year-round anxiety and depression, managing my symptoms during the holidays is always an unpredictable task. Knowing this pattern within myself tends to inspire a sense of dread as the holidays approach.
Of course, I know I am not alone in these seasonal blues. For so many, the holidays are anything but “the most wonderful time of the year” no matter what you celebrate. Yet, I can always look to my beloved Harry Potter books when things feel especially dark.
Christmas is not always a pleasant affair for the Potter characters either. Thinking about Harry’s ten years of loveless, joyless holidays spent with the Dursleys is enough to put me in a “bah humbug” mood. However, once Harry discovers the wizarding world, he also gets to experience all the joy Christmas can bring. This is the first time in Harry’s memory that he gets actual presents for the holiday – and what’s a better gift than a hand-knit Weasley sweater?
Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts wouldn’t be possible without his new friends who love him. When I think about the people who make Harry’s first magical Christmas special, I’m inspired to give to others when I’m feeling blue during the holidays.
The Weasleys aren’t wealthy, and I’m sure buying presents for their seven children puts a strain on their budget. Despite this, Mrs. Weasley goes out of her way to send her son’s best friend presents too. She also invites Harry to many Weasley Christmases, which further solidifies Harry as a part of her family. Of course, Harry cherishes Christmases spent at the Burrow. I can imagine Mrs. Weasley feels a lot of happiness, knowing Harry is surrounded by people who love him during the holidays.
If you give the spirits of the season, like love and interconnectedness, there’s a good chance you’ll get them back. When the holidays are getting you down, take a page from Mrs. Weasley’s book and try to create joy in others. Mrs. Weasley’s example is not a call to wear yourself out trying to make everything special. Simple acts of kindness can spark the most joy.
Hermione spends many Christmases helping her friends. She is obviously very close to her family; we see her travel with her parents during Christmas breaks at Hogwarts. Yet, at age 12, she foregoes family tradition to help Harry and Ron make the Polyjuice Potion. It’s also Hermione who visits Lily and James’s graves with Harry on Christmas Eve despite the war raging around them.
Hermione also serves as a great example of how to stay realistic during the holidays and keep your expectations in check. When Harry gets his Firebolt from a mystery gift giver during his third year, it’s Hermione that prioritizes Harry’s safety over the Christmas spirit and tells Professor McGonagall she’s suspicious of the gift. Sure, Harry and Ron are grouchy with her for ruining the party for a while, but she’s right to look out for Harry’s well-being. Isn’t that the true meaning of the holiday anyway?
Hermione might not be the best example of not burning yourself out during the holidays. She tends to spend her season studying for exams or fretting over how many hats she can’t knit for house-elves while on holiday. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure to go above and beyond for others this time of year. There’s nothing wrong with that. Yet, I look to Mrs. Weasley again for inspiration. This time, she inspires me to do something that makes me truly happy during the holiday season. While none of Mrs. Weasley’s family members have the same appreciation for Celestina Warbeck’s Christmas broadcast, it doesn’t stop Molly from turning up the volume.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid has a moment that speaks to me when I consider ways to channel my grief during Christmastime. After Buckbeak attacks Draco Malfoy during a Care of Magical Creatures lesson, Hagrid believes his beloved hippogriff’s days are numbered. Hagrid is ordered by the Ministry to isolate Buckbeak, but he can’t bring himself to leave his pet out in the cold. The takeaway for me here is to extend love and support outward to people who don’t have anyone during the holidays. Maybe that could look like volunteering at a local animal shelter or reaching out to a relative or friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
How does Harry Potter get you through the season? How do you beat the holiday blues when it gets difficult?