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What Harry Potter Taught Me About Celebrating the Holidays

Image credit: Jmh2o.

There are many things I love about the Harry Potter series. How it describes Christmas and the winter holidays in general is one of them. I’m planning to do yet another reread of these books in the near future, so all of the Christmases Harry celebrated with his friends have been popping into my mind again.

Today I wanted to share a few quotes from this series that illustrate some of the most important lessons they’ve shared about food, presents, and celebrations at this time of the year.

Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. 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… Harry pulled a wizard cracker with Fred and it didn’t just bang, it went off with a blast like a cannon and engulfed them all in a cloud of blue smoke, while from the inside exploded a rear admiral’s hat and several live, white mice.—Description of the Christmas feast in The Philosopher’s Stone

The food descriptions in these books were mouth-wateringly delicious in general, but they somehow always outdid themselves over the holidays.I wanted to eat chipolatas even before I had any clue what they were because of how delicious everything else sounded.

There are plenty of Christmas crackers for sale here in Canada, but a small, playful part of me doesn’t want to buy any of them unless they’re magical and clearly meant for wizards.

Harry Potter: “Will you look at this? I’ve got some presents!

Ron Weasley: “What did you expect, turnips?

One of the things I loved the most about this exchange between Harry and Ron was how it showed the subtle ways their childhoods had influenced their expectations of the holidays.

Ron Weasley’s family was poor but loving. While his parents could only afford simple, homemade gifts most of the time, they were always distributed evenly.

Harry’s family could have afforded to buy him all sorts of things, but they chose to use what should have been a joyful day to inflict even more abuse on him by giving basically all of the love, attention, presents, and desirable food to his cousin every year.

What was a fairly ordinary Christmas to Ron was something Harry found overwhelmingly kind. This was a good reminder that everyone’s approach to the holidays is different. Some people love them. Others find them painful for any number of reasons. ,

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” – Dumbledore, Philosopher’s Stone

I couldn’t agree with this more. Socks are a deeply under-appreciated gift. There’s nothing like starting the winter off with some brand-new socks that are warm, comfortable, and maybe even cheerfully colourful. One size fits almost everyone, and they can be personalized in all kinds of cheerful ways. I’ve seen socks that have animals, superheroes, rainbows, flags, baseballs, musical instruments, sassy sayings, TTC lines, and all kinds of other stuff printed on them.

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, socks would be close to the top of my list if I were expecting any gifts at this time of the year.

“Do people usually give their house-elves Christmas presents?” ~ Harry, Half-Blood Prince

Who deserves presents at Christmas?

To give readers who aren’t familiar with this universe more context for this question, house-elves are owned by wizards in the Potterverse. The only way for them to be freed is if the wizard who owns them gives them an article of clothing.

Normally, house-elves don’t receive Christmas presents, but Harry didn’t know that when he first met one of them. His joy at being fully included in the Weasley family’s celebrations made him assume that everyone should receive presents at Christmas.

I agree with him. If your’e going to give gifts, be inclusive about it as much as possible. It’s like Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, said:

” The more the merrier!” ~ Sirius, Order of the Phoenix

Suggestion Saturday: December 9, 2017

Here is this week’s list of comic strips, recipes, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Quiz. If sexual harassment and assault are ever going to end, this is how that will happen.

Secret Santa via via MonsterMermaids‬.  I hope that this won’t be your experience if you’re participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange this holiday season.

Christmas Mince Pies. Mince pies never sounded particularly appetizing to me, but this recipe is quickly changing my mind about that. Yum.

Winter Feast 01. This is so very true for this time of the year.

The Hunt for the Gluten-Free Fruit Cake via ‪andre1begin‬. Wow, I had no idea there was such a thing as gluten-free fruit cake. This was quite the entertaining read.

From This Is How To Use Mindfulness To Make Better Decisions:

Your brain makes thoughts. That’s what it does. And some of those thoughts will always be negative because your grey matter lives by the motto of “better safe than sorry.”

From  Will I Ever Listen? via ‪notquiteold‬:

I’m very good at doling out the advice.

And lots of people seem to appreciate it.

Apparently, I am not one of those people.

 

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My Blog Won a Liebster Award

Thank you to Bread from Queer Little Family for nominating me for this award. Bread and I met on Twitter earlier this year. She lives with her wife and son in Wales, and she blogs about everything from the funny side of parenting to what life as a member of the LGBT community is like.

The Liebster Award is given out to small blogs on the Internet that deserve more recognition. They’re used to thank bloggers for their hard work as well as to introduce audiences to new bloggers they may enjoy.

The rules for nominating someone for this award and accepting it are spelled out here.

When Bread nominated me, she included a list of questions that she wanted me to answer. My replies are below.

Why do you use to blog?

I started blogging because I truly enjoy the instant feedback you can get from publishing a post and because it keeps me in the habit of writing in general.

What animals do you have?

I don’t have any animals at all.  I’m allergic to many common pets, including cats and dogs.

When did you last have a pizza?

The last time I had pizza was last night. My spouse wanted a treat, and I agreed with him that it was a good idea.

What was your favourite television show as a kid?

My family didn’t own a television at all for a few years of my childhood, and for several other years there we had a television that only picked up the handful of channels you could get if you didn’t have cable. I watched a lot of PBS documentaries back then. Once we signed up for cable, my favourite show would have been Total Request Live on MTV. I enjoyed seeing which music videos made it to the #1 spot each day.

The best blogging advice you’ve received?

Always proofread before hitting publish.

How would you spend a big lottery win?

I’d give away some of my winnings to family members and charities, but other than that I’d spend it carefully and slowly. My current minimalist lifestyle suits me just fine. There are very few things I’d have any interest at all in buying even if I did have the money for them.

What is the best pie filling?

Lemon meringue. It is so light, tangy, and fluffy.

If you could, would you be famous?

Being wealthy would be nice, but fame isn’t appealing at all. I’ve seen the way famous people are built up and then torn down by the media. I’d want no part of that lifestyle.

What is your spirit animal?

If I had a Patronus, it would be a rabbit without a doubt.

What else did your parents consider calling you?

Phillip was the name they’d tentatively chosen for a baby boy. I believe they may have also briefly considered giving me names like Lorelei or Hanalore to honour our German heritage, but they ultimately decided that Lydia would be easier to spell and pronounce.

If we’d lived in Germany instead of North America, I wouldn’t be surprised if my parents had gone with much more Germanic names for their children in general. They seemed to like them.

I’d like to nominate the following bloggers for this award:

If they accept this award, these are the questions I’d like them to answer:

  1. What is the most creative story, poem, song, or other piece of writing you’ve created so far?
  2. Where, if anywhere, do you volunteer? If you don’t currently volunteer, where have you donated your time and skills to in the past or hope to donate them to in the future?
  3. How do you like your coffee or tea?
  4. What was the last song you listened to?
  5. If you could only watch one genre of movies for the rest of your life, which genre would it be?
  6. Do you have any hidden talents or surprising hobbies? If so, what are they?
  7. What is the furthest distance you’ve ever traveled from home? Why did you go on that trip?
  8. Which do you prefer: sweet, salty, sour, or savoury snacks? Why?
  9. How many languages do you speak? Which languages are they?
  10. What did you have for breakfast today?

The Tale of the Coveted Cookies

No, this is not the beginning of a fairy tale. It really happened years ago when I was a teenager, and I thought it would be an amusing story to share with you as the holiday season ramps up.

My mom comes from a fairly large extended family. Both of her parents had many siblings, so both sides of her family tree used to have large potluck dinners every December to give everyone a chance to spend time together over the holidays.

 My maternal grandmother’s side of the family included a White Elephant gift exchange in their gigantic Christmas get-together. Every family unit – which was roughly defined as a couple (or single person) and any children under the age of 20 they may have – was asked to bring one wrapped gift that would appeal to an adult of any age.

One year, mom had no idea what to bring for the gift exchange. What she did have was a little extra time on her hands and an empty decorated tin from a previous Christmas. She whipped up a quick batch of chocolate chip cookies and put as many of them as would fit into the tin. It was such a pretty box that she didn’t bother wrapping it in festive paper.

In a white elephant gift exchange, a member from each family is allowed to choose one wrapped present. Everyone then sat in a semicircle of chairs. One by one, they opened their gift and then decided whether they wanted to keep it or trade it for one of the other opened presents.

This was a decision that could be made only once. After your turn ended, you’d either hold onto your gift for good or have it “stolen” by someone further down the line who preferred it to whatever it was they had unwrapped.

When mom’s gift was opened by a cousin, he grinned. The next person to open their gift quickly “stole” the cookies from the first person.

This happened a few different times throughout the course of the game. I don’t remember who finally ended up with them, but it was funny to see adults become so playfully competitive over a tin of cookies. (Granted, they were delicious cookies!)

While I haven’t participated in a gift exchange in many years, I think of this story every December.

Sometimes the best gifts really are the simplest ones.

If you’d like to make these cookies for yourself, here is the recipe. It’s every bit as delicious as it sounds, and the cookies are quite easy to make as well.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/3 cups Crisco (or margarine)
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
1 package chocolate chips (about 340 grams or 12 ounces)

Directions

Mix the Crisco, sugar, brown sugar, and eggs  together until fluffy.
Add the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.
Add the flour in one cup at a time. Mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the dough onto lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.