Christmas as a Metaphor for Lost Realities in “Harry Potter”
In every Harry Potter book, Christmas gets its own chapter: “The Mirror of Erised” in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “The Polyjuice Potion” in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “The Firebolt” in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “The Unexpected Task” in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, “Christmas on the Closed Ward” in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, “A Very Frosty Christmas” in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and “Godric’s Hollow” in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This continual inclusion shows just how important Christmastime is to the Harry Potter series. Christmas isn’t so important for the gifts and good cheer but for the lost memories and feelings it brings back.
Christmas in the Harry Potter series is a metaphor for lost realities. The lost realities are what could have been, such as Harry spending Christmas with his parents. During every Christmas Harry spends at Hogwarts, he feels happy but also gloomy. During Christmastime, he always reflects on how lonely he feels. Part of the reason for this is that society stresses Christmas to be a time we spend with our families. While Harry is happy to be at Hogwarts with his loyal friends, he still misses his parents at Christmas. Harry is the most miserable during his first Christmas at Hogwarts because seeing his parents in the Mirror of Erised makes him miss them more. It is the best Christmas Harry has ever experienced, but he can’t help feeling empty. It’s not until he stumbles across the Mirror of Erised that he realizes what he has been missing: his family. During the events of Sorcerer’s Stone, Christmas is used as a time for Harry to self-reflect.
Following Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, Christmas becomes less lonely. Harry spends several Christmas holidays with the Weasley family. However, while Christmas is no longer lonely, it is still dramatic and exciting. In Chamber of Secrets, Christmas is still a metaphor for lost realities. The golden trio takes Polyjuice Potion during the holidays to clear Harry’s name in the long run. Harry is living in a lost reality; he no longer is praised for being a good person or a hero but is suspected of being the heir of Slytherin. Harry has lost the reality of who he is. A similar situation occurs in Prisoner of Azkaban; Harry is left behind when his friends visit Hogsmeade. Harry wishes he could tag along with his friends during Christmastime, and his feelings of loneliness from Sorcerer’s Stone return. Harry has lost the reality of spending Christmas with his friends, and that’s why he’s so depressed.
Christmas in Goblet of Fire isn’t discussed as much as in the other books. Part of the reason for this is because Harry’s journey in the book is a journey he must walk alone. Harry is tasked with surviving the Triwizard Tournament alone with no help. Harry is cut off from the rest of the world, and few activities as fun as Christmas are on his mind. In Order of the Phoenix, Harry struggles to come to terms with being away from Sirius during Christmastime. Harry is torn between wanting to spend Christmas with his godfather and spending it with the Weasleys. Everything resolves itself when they all spend Christmas at the same place, and this is one year when Harry finds closure. He still has the lost reality of Christmas without his parents, but he’s gotten as close to that as possible. By spending this Christmas with his godfather (his original family) and the Weasleys (his found family), he has replicated the life he would’ve had with his parents. This is one of the first years that Harry has felt part of a family unit.
In Half-Blood Prince, Harry’s connection to his parents is revisited during Christmastime. Harry spends Christmas at the Burrow, and Lupin stops by for a visit. Harry and Lupin share a conversation about James, and Harry gets to hear about what James was like as a teenager. It’s a sweet moment but also a crucial one. The holidays in the Harry Potter books always include a mention of Harry’s parents. Christmas is used as an opportunity for Harry to learn more about his parents, from this moment with Lupin to Dumbledore gifting Harry his father’s Invisibility Cloak. Then, in the final book, everything with Christmas comes full circle. During Deathly Hallows, Harry and Hermione visit Godric’s Hollow and see where James and Lily are buried. This is a bittersweet moment: Harry gets to see his parents and pay tribute to them but is also spending Christmas almost completely alone. He is spending Christmas with Hermione, but his Christmas in Deathly Hallows resembles his Christmas in Sorcerer’s Stone: lonely. Christmas is such an important part of the Harry Potter books because it is used as a metaphor for Harry to reflect on what he has lost. By doing so, Harry can appreciate his new “found” reality with loyal friends.