Ever notice how much time Harry Potter spends celebrating Christmas? At least one chapter of each book takes place around Christmas time, and some really important things happen during these chapters. Maybe because it’s one of the two holidays that Hogwarts makes a point of celebrating (the other being Halloween, of course). Christmas in the wizarding world is a time for fun, family, food, and, occasionally, the advancement of the plot. As a result, Harry has had several truly magical holidays and a few…not-so-great ones. Let’s rank them, shall we?
#1 – The Philosopher’s Stone
Harry’s first Christmas at Hogwarts is undoubtedly his happiest. It’s the first time he has a real Christmas–you know, with friends who actually care about him and give him presents. And it’s Hogwarts, so there’s a ridiculous amount of great food, and the presents are magical. Most importantly, this is the Christmas when Harry gets his invisibility cloak. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! His first use of it leads to his discovery of the Mirror of Erised, which is, in a way, a nice Christmas present as well.
#2 – The Prisoner of Azkaban
This Christmas is mostly notable for another great present that Harry receives: a Firebolt broomstick. This gift helps him win his first and only Quidditch Cup with the Gryffindor team later in the book, and we eventually find out that it came from his godfather, Sirius. Good times all around!
#3 – The Goblet of Fire
This book gives us the Yule Ball, a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament in which Harry is participating. It’s a bit of an awkward affair, what with Harry and Ron’s total disinterest in their dates, Ron’s unfortunate dress robes, and Hermione’s angst over not being invited by Ron. But Hermione does get a great makeover, we get our first unmistakable signs that Ron and Hermione like each other, and we find out that Hagrid is, indeed, half giant. It’s a very fun chapter for the reader, if not quite so much for the characters.
#4 – The Chamber of Secrets
Harry, Ron, and Hermione spend this holiday at Hogwarts brewing Polyjuice Potion and infiltrating the Slytherin common room (to find out whether Draco is opening the Chamber of Secrets). Turns out he isn’t, and Hermione accidentally turns herself into a cat. Way to go, team.
#5 – The Half-Blood Prince
More Ron and Hermione drama this Christmas. Also, an unwelcome job offer from the Ministry of Magic, and (according to the movie) a completely gratuitous chase scene and the burning of the Burrow. At least no permanent harm was done.
#6 – The Order of the Phoenix
Since this book takes place during Harry’s most annoying teenage angst phase, it’s not surprising that he spent most of his Christmas holiday sulking. Not that he didn’t have a few legitimate reasons to sulk, what with Umbridge taking over Hogwarts, his dreams of Voldemort, and having to spend Christmas surrounded by pickled house-elf heads. Then there was that visit to St. Mungo’s, where we met Neville’s parents. All around, this was a rather sad holiday. At least Sirius was happy…one last time…
#7 – The Deathly Hallows
But none of Harry’s previous bad Christmases can hold a candle to this one. Let’s see – he gets attacked by a snake hiding in the corpse of an old lady, breaks his wand, almost gets killed by Voldemort, has some seriously unsettling flashbacks to his parents’ death, finds out about Dumbledore’s dark past, and fails once again to destroy the horcrux. Yaaaay! (Although if you think of the sword of Gryffindor and Ron’s return as late Christmas presents, maybe it wasn’t so bad.)
Even if Harry’s Christmases were a bit of a rollercoaster, wouldn’t you just love to be a wizard this time of year? Most of the presents the kids get are awesome, and the food is so good, it’s amazing they’re not all obese by the end of the series. And all you have to do to prepare that food is wave your wand and watch the results! Holiday stress? Doesn’t exist! Man, people in the wizarding world have it made.
But the best things about wizarding Christmases are, thankfully, real–big family gatherings, fun parties, gifts, snow, and good food. They take a little more work to achieve in the real world, but they do exist.