In this season of merry nerdiness, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fandom I associate most closely with Christmas.
One thing that immediately captured my attention when I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a kid was the description of Narnia under the White Witch’s reign: a place where it is “always winter, but never Christmas.” Now, I grew up in Minnesota, where winter lasts roughly from late October to mid-April, and the temperature might rise above 30 degrees Fahrenheit twice during that time. Minnesota winters are dark, cold, icy, and cruel, even to people who don’t have to drive. So for eight-year-old me, Christmas was the one thing that made winter bearable (well, that and sledding). The White Witch’s Narnia sounded like an absolute nightmare. C.S. Lewis was clever like that–bringing hell-on-earth down to a level that a child can understand and dread.
Which is what made the chapter where Father Christmas himself showed up a real moment of joy and triumph for me on my first read. Let it be known that this is still the only one of my fandoms in which Santa Claus himself appears–and is not evil or fake or a useless comedic character. Pretty awesome, I’d say!
Of course, this book also features an alternate version of the person whose birth we celebrate on Christmas–except He’s a lion. But describing his role in the first Narnia book would bring this post into Easter territory, and it’s still December.
For now, I want to take a moment and talk about the presents the Pevensie children receive from Father Christmas. I mean, I’ve gotten some nice Christmas gifts in the past, but those kids really hit the jackpot. Peter gets a sword and a shield. Susan gets a bow and arrows, and a super classy horn that can be heard from anywhere. Lucy gets a dagger and a magical potion that can heal any wound. Mom, Dad…where’s MY magic healing potion, huh??
But the coolest thing about these gifts is that, as Father Christmas says, “these are tools, not toys.” Each of the Pevensie kids uses their gift in a very important way by the end of the book, and they’re still putting them to good use two books later. Father Christmas gave them exactly what they needed to survive and protect others throughout their adventures in Narnia. More than that, these gifts actually mark the beginning of their journey from ordinary school children to kings and queens. Just a chapter later, Peter kills Maugrim the wolf to protect his sisters. By the end of the book, Lucy has earned her reputation as a great healer. And in the next book, it’s Susan’s horn that calls the kings and queens back to Narnia.
Don’t you think that’s the best kind of gift? The kind that helps its recipient become a better person? Those gifts are rather rare in real life…or, maybe they’re just harder to see. I do have a rather theological headcanon as to who Father Christmas represents in Lewis’s not-so-subtle allegorical world…but I’ll let you, dear reader, figure it out if you’re so inclined.