Why Weasley Sweaters Are the True Meaning of Christmas: Celebrating Christmas with Harry Potter

’Tis the season ’tis agreed, but the reason for the season causes disagreement indeed.  There are those who want to “Put Christ back in Christmas”, those who proclaim “Axial tilt is the reason for the season” (which is technically correct), and those who say “This season, celebrate reason”.  There are those who may decry the commercialism and materialism which accompany Christmas, and although they make a valid point, beneath the wrapping paper and the shiny veneer, there is a core of happiness and joy.  As I tend to believe that there is a Harry Potter quote for every occasion, I have decided to dedicate an entry to finding the meaning of Christmas within Harry Potter.

Even though Harry is an orphan, family becomes a part of Harry’s Christmases at the age of eleven, when he receives his first Weasley sweater.  Christmas morning of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts finds him and Ron waking up to a pile of presents.  Harry is surprised to find that he has received gifts.

“I think I know who that one’s from,” said Ron, turning a bit pink and pointing to a very lumpy parcel.  “My mom.  I told her you didn’t expect any presents and — oh, no,” he groaned, “she’s made you a Weasley sweater.”

Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of homemade fudge.

“Every year she makes us a sweater,” said Ron, unwrapping his own, “and mine’s always maroon.”

“That’s really nice of her,” said Harry, trying the fudge, which was very tasty.[1]

At the end of the first school year, when he sees Mrs. Weasley again at King’s Cross, he thanks her.[2] Harry, who never received decent gifts or (more importantly) affection from the Durlseys is surprised that someone cared enough about him to send him presents.  It’s not really the presents he cares about, but the fact that there are people who care about him.  Throughout the series, the Weasleys become a second family to Harry, and we see the beginning of their closeness here, as Mrs. Weasley begins to treat Harry the way she treats her own children.  Her sweaters are already a tradition for her family and become a tradition for Harry as well.

During Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, there are so few students staying at Hogwarts during the Christmas break (due to Sirius Black’s escape from Azkaban) that there is a small group of thirteen having lunch together on Christmas in the Great Hall.[3] Despite the fear of the escaped prisoner, Professor Dumbledore’s cheerfulness makes the scene fun.  The way the teachers bicker with one another even resembles somewhat the arguments between family members; they are thrown together although they are different from one another and some would not usually spend so much time together.  Although Hogwarts has a large student body, this more intimate scene of a few people dining together captures the feeling that Harry has about the school — a home where there are friends close by, good food, laughter, and some strangeness, of course.

The love of our families is remembered during the holiday season, even when the memory may be sad.  During Christmas break of fifth year, the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione go to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries to visit Mr. Weasley, who has been attacked by Nagini, Lord Voldemort’s snake.  While they are there, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny run into Neville and his grandmother, who are visiting Neville’s parents Alice and Frank Langbottom.  Neville’s parents were fighting against the evil Lord Voldemort and were tortured into insanity by Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange.  We see them for the first and only time in what is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the series.  Mrs. Longbottom (Neville’s grandmother) tells Neville, “You should be proud, Neville, proud!  They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!”  She wants Neville to understand that his parents were brave and that they risked their lives for a good cause and that he should not be ashamed of them, even though they are now in a bad state.  Neville responds that he is not ashamed.[4] Although extremely sad, this scene shows the importance of family — what a child’s parents will be willing to do to make a better world for their son, a child’s loyalty to his parents despite their condition, and a grandmother who wants her grandson to appreciate his parents’ sacrifice.  As he grows older, Neville himself display the kind of courage his parents had and his grandmother praises him for it, telling him that he’s his parents’ son.[5] We see that Neville’s parents, who he visited during the Christmas break, really have had an effect on him.  Even though he sees clearly the danger of opposing evil and doing the right thing, he also understands that doing the right thing is so important that the risk is worth it.

The gifts we receive from our loved ones are not just material, but also everlasting, staying with us even after their death.  As the students are about to head back to Hogwarts after Christmas break of fifth year, Sirius gives Harry another Christmas present and says, “I want you to use it if you need me, alright?”[6] Later, after Sirius dies, Harry finally opens the package.  There is a note from Sirius attached, which reads, “This is a two-way mirror.  I’ve got the other.  If you need to speak to me, just say my name into it; you’ll appear in my mirror and I’ll be able to talk in yours.  James and I used to use them when we were in separate detentions.”  Harry is hoping to see Sirius again, but Sirius is dead.[7] Even though Harry ends up shattering the mirror in anguish and despair over Sirius’ death, Sirius left Harry something even more important:  loyal and courage.  Sirius was loyal to his friends and eager to defend them; he wanted to be there for his loved ones, and even though he was a flawed human being, he showed his good nature.  Harry saw Sirius as a father figure for the small amount of time that Sirius was in his life, and Harry knew that Sirius would always be there to help him.  Harry is likewise there for his friends.

Harry and Hermione spend Christmas Eve of seventh year in Godric’s Hollow.  They visit the graveyard by the church, where Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore (Albus Dumbledore’s mother and sister) and James and Lily Potter (Harry’s parents) are buried.  Harry cries over his parents’ graves and knows that he is alive because of them, because they fought Lord Voldemort, because his mother took the Killing curse that was meant for him.  Hermione stands beside him loyally, and they put their arms around each other as they walk out of the graveyard.[8] Although Harry’s parents are no longer alive, they loved him so much that they were willing to sacrifice themselves to protect him and to make a better world.  Like Neville’s parents and Sirius, they suffered due to it, but they knew it was the right thing to do.  Harry is willing to put himself in danger to help his loved ones and even to help those he does not know.  Even though his parents are not there to put their arms around him in times of despair, his friends are there for him and that makes a big difference.  Even the saddest Christmas can contain a small amount of hope when it’s with friends.

The meaning of Christmas is present throughout the Harry Potter series.  The comfort of family and friends, the importance of helping others, the joy of the season, and even the frustrations of arguments over the dinner table are present.  The good will and cheer associated with the holidays are present in the hearts of the characters, as they carry these ideas with them not just during the party but also in difficult times.  Weasley sweaters are the true meaning of Christmas, because they keep the wearer warm and also represent the warmth of love, kindness, and hope that we learn through the good actions of others.


References

[1] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 1997, p. 200-1.

ISBN:  0-590-35340-3

[2] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 1997, p. 308.

ISBN:  0-590-35340-3

[3] Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 1999, p. 227-30.

ISBN:  0-439-13635-0

[4] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 2003, p. 512-5. [Direct quote from p. 514]

ISBN:  978-0-439-35806-4

[5] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 2007, p. 571-6.

ISBN:  978-0-545-01022-1

[6] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 2003, p. 523.

ISBN:  978-0-439-35806-4

[7] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 2003, p. 857-8.  [Direct quote from p. 857]

ISBN:  978-0-439-35806-4

[8] Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  New York:  Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic, Inc., 2007, p. 323-9.

ISBN:  978-0-545-01022-1

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4 thoughts on “Why Weasley Sweaters Are the True Meaning of Christmas: Celebrating Christmas with Harry Potter

  1. Ok, I adore your blog after reading this post! Christmas and Harry Potter brought together in one very meaningful post! It is especially wonderful to me now that I am no longer a believer, but still love Christmas for the family times and nostalgia.

    Thank you for this post, and thanks again for visiting my blog!

  2. @thesecretatheist:
    Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed post. I definitely think there is value in finding meaning in literature, and I don’t think it is necessary to give up all the wonderful things in life just because of a lack of belief in God. Thanks again!

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