In each of the seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling treats us to a glimpse of Harry’s Christmas holiday. And, let’s face it, as Hogwarts is one of the best literary locations ever, then Hogwarts at Christmastime is really something special. Of course that’s not to say that Harry’s Christmases are always idyllic. However, they are always significant to the story. And what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than by diving into the holidays with Harry? Let’s explore Christmas as it is portrayed in each book of the Harry Potter series. Then, perhaps, you can pick which book suits your mood this season, and either read it again or find a particular edition to add to your collection. Grab a glass of butterbeer, pull on your coziest, hand-knit sweater, and read along as we present Christmas with Harry.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
We experience the Holidays at Hogwarts for the first time right alongside Harry. And Rowling’s description of the seasonal scenes doesn’t disappoint:
“The hall looked spectacular. Festoons of holly and mistletoe hung all around the walls, and no less than twelve towering Christmas trees stood around the room, some sparkling with tiny icicles, some glittering with hundreds of candles.”
If that doesn’t put you in the mood to decorate your own halls, I’m not sure what will. Likewise, our hearts are warmed by the love the Weasley family shows Harry on Christmas morning; Molly gifts him with none other than a trademark family sweater. Speaking of treasured gifts, we see the invisibility cloak come into the play for the first time, and we all know how significant that gift ends up being as Harry’s story progresses.
For the boy who lived, who has never had a Christmas dinner to speak of, the Hogwarts’ feast is enough to make his eyes bulge.
“A hundred fat, roast turkeys; mountains of roast and boiled potatoes; platters of chipolatas; tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick rich gravy and cranberry sauce—and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table.”
All of that said, it’s no surprise Harry deems it his “best Christmas day ever.” (Chapter 12, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
In book two of the Harry Potter series, Christmas rolls around again, but the mood is a bit more somber than back when Harry’s biggest concern was uncovering information about Nicolas Flamel. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, all of Hogwarts has been on edge after students and other castle creatures have turned up petrified. The Christmas holiday becomes Harry’s reprieve from endless speculation about his being the heir of Salazar Slytherin.
Despite being gifted a toothpick from the Dursleys—you know, in case he was without—Harry was able to enjoy another delicious Christmas dinner. Again, Rowling’s description of the festivities leaves us longing to visit Hogwarts ourselves.
“No one, not even someone dreading taking Polyjuice Potion later, could fail to enjoy Christmas dinner at Hogwarts. The Great Hall looked magnificent. Not only were there a dozen frost-covered Christmas trees and thick streamers of holly and mistletoe crisscrossing the ceiling, but enchanted snow was falling, warm and dry from the ceiling.” (Chapter 12, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
Ahh, Polyjuice Potion. We’ll definitely be seeing you again later. But seriously, where can I find myself some of this enchanted snow…it sounds heavenly.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
When Christmas comes round in book three, Harry isn’t in the best of spirits. On a secret trip into Hogsmeade the day before the holiday begins, he discovers that not only did Sirius Black betray his parents by telling their location to Voldemort, but he was also their most trusted friend and Harry’s Godfather. What’s more, a visit to Hagrid reveals that Buckbeak, the groundskeeper’s beloved Hippogriff, has been sentenced to death for taking a bite out of Draco Malfoy’s arm—no matter that he was provoked.
But, when Harry receives a mysterious gift on Christmas morning, the tides seem to turn in his favor.
“It was a Firebolt, identical to the dream broom Harry had gone to see every day in Diagon Alley. Its handle glittered as he picked it up. He could feel it vibrating and let go; it hung in midair, unsupported, at exactly the right height for him to mount. His eyes moved from the golden registration number at the top of the handle, right down to the perfectly smooth, streamlined birch twigs that made up the tail.” (Chapter 11, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
With dreams of torching Malfoy in their next Quidditch match, Harry attends Christmas dinner with his friends. The meal passes amicably enough even as Professor Trelawney once again foretells Harry’s death. However, afterwards, Professor McGonagall takes the Firebolt to be tested after being alerted to its presence by Hermione. Harry is distraught at the loss of his recently acquired prized possession, and when Ron confronts Hermione about why she tattled, she gives what turns out to be a rather foreshadowing explanation:
“Because I thought—and Professor McGonagall agrees with me—that the broom was probably sent to Harry by Sirius Black!”
Indeed, the Christmas holiday in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is supremely significant to the storyline, filled with red herrings and clues to be made sense of as the book progresses.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The idea of a Yule Ball is genius. The whole series of events leading up to Christmas Eve and the aforementioned Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is Rowling at her best. From Professor McGonagall demanding that Harry will dance to the cringe-worthy nature of Harry and Ron’s procurement of dates, the build up to the actual Ball is Potter gold.
But then, we see Hermione legitimately cause Harry’s jaw to drop, and Ron’s jealousy over her dating Victor Krum marks a turning point in their relationship. Harry’s assertion at the end of the chapter that, “Hermione had gotten the point much better than Ron had” is perfection. All we have to say is Happy Christmas and you go, girl.
Oh, and the description of a decked-out Hogwarts that we’ve come to know and love is, again, perfectly (ahem) magical:
“Over their heads he saw that an area of lawn right in front of the castle had been transformed into a sort of grotto full of fairy lights—meaning hundreds of actual living fairies were sitting in the rosebushes that had been conjured there, and fluttering over the statues of what seemed to be Father Christmas and his reindeer…The walls of the Hall had all been covered in sparkling silver frost, with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling.” (Chapter 23, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Check back next week for part 2 of our Christmas with Harry series. In the meantime, browse the Harry Potter Collection here.