Tag Archives: Harry Potter

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

Why I Love to Read Speculative Fiction

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for everything from science fiction to dystopians, fantasy to horror.

I’ve been thinking a lot about speculative fiction in general since The Handmaid’s Tale began last month. This specific storytelling style has appealed to me for as long as I can remember for several different reasons.


Books like 1984, Animal Farm, or Brave New World reveal the ugly sides of the systems, societies, or cultures they’re critiquing without hesitation. Do they offend some people along the way? Yes, without a doubt. It wasn’t necessarily their original goal, but they’re not afraid to ruffle a few feathers while attempting to get their audiences to wrestle with the big issues that authors in this genre often explore.

I love that about these tales. There are times when I’m in the mood for something light and fluffy, but my first literary love will always be tales that rip off the parts of human society that are hidden and reveal everything they’re trying so hard to conceal.

It definitely isn’t easy to write an entertaining story that also challenges people to rethink their assumptions. When an author manages to pull this off, it’s truly magical.

Critical Thinking

One of the things that irritates me the most about many news networks in the United States is how sensationalized they are. All of their repetitive panic over serious and frivolous stories alike dulls the senses and makes it extremely difficult to think critically about what the newscaster is reporting. When everything is an emergency, nothing is an emergency.

I avoided the news as much as possible when I lived in the U.S. Now that I’ve been an expat for a dozen years, I find it overwhelming when I’m back in the States for a visit.

The nice thing about the more serious side of speculative fiction is that a well-timed plot doesn’t leave room for these kinds of diversions. Yes, there are scenes in The Handmaid’s Tale that draw me into deep thought every time I read about or watch them. These scenes not about assuming the worst or blowing things out of proportion in order to snag people’s attention, though.

Everything that was included in that particular book has actually happened at least once in the past. Some of the plot points have been repeated over and over again throughout history as we try and fail yet again to learn our lessons and improve on how previous generations behaved.

Speculative fiction can push readers to sort through the various points of view in their plots, decide which ones make sense, and come up with our own theories about what happened and how we should interpret fictional stories that have something to say about real-world events.


First of all, isn’t wonderment a fantastic word? It’s the kind of word that I like to gently roll around on my tongue a few times before I bother to share it with anyone else.

All of the genres I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post are full of wonder in their own way. For example, I will never forget how I felt at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when dozens of invitations to Hogwarts appeared at the Dursleys house after Harry’s uncle destroyed the first few that arrived.

Seeing the Dursleys react so strongly to simple magic makes me grin every time I see it. If only they could have seen the more powerful, playful, and sometimes downright dangerous types of magic that Harry encountered once he started attending Hogwarts!

This sense of wonder stuck with me through all of the Harry Potter books. Even the darkest and saddest scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows still tickled my imagination in small ways. Once wonderment has been introduced into a story, it almost always remains there for good.


Yes, I know that some people use this term in a derogatory way. I don’t think of escapist literature as a negative thing at all, though.

There is something to be said for immersing yourself in a completely different world when you need a short break or could use some encouragement.

The first time I read the Lord of the Rings series was shortly after my life had changed in all kinds of stressful ways due to a cross-country move my family made when I was a preteen. I had a lot of  trouble making friends and adjusting to my new school.

I was not a happy kid at that point in my life by any stretch of the imagination, but I found a lot of solace in seeing how Frodo and Sam persevered through even the most impossible circumstances.

We weren’t facing the same obstacles, but we were facing the same fears. If they could push through another day, then I could as well.

How about you? Why do you love speculative fiction? I hope you’ll pop over to Twitter today and tell me all about it!

Why I’m Tired of Stories About the Chosen One

I’ve been reading less speculative fiction this year. One of the things that has reduced how much of it I read has to do with the concept of the Chosen One and how overused it is in this genre.

There are a few different reasons why I’m quickly losing interest in stories about people who have been chosen to save their village, humankind, or the entire universe from whatever it is that is threatening their existence.

1. The Chosen One Doesn’t Earn His or Her Place

As I mentioned last month in Scifi and Fantasy Rules That Should Be Broken, heroes in science fiction and fantasy usually aren’t people who have any special training or education. They’re the Chosen One because of who their parents are, what an ancient prophecy foretold, or whether or not Voldemort tried to curse them to death when they were a baby.

If this happened occasionally, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. There is definitely something to be said for showing that heroes can come from anywhere.

The fact that it’s so prevalent, though, makes me feel uneasy. Education and experience are a positive thing. I’d never go to a doctor or dentist who had somehow skipped medical/dental school and was just winging it when it came to diagnosing an infection or deciding if I had a cavity.

So it feels strange for the fate of the entire world to be regularly handed to people who don’t have any unique skills or advanced training whatsoever.

At this point, I’d much rather read about someone who has spent or will spend years studying magic/spaceships/medicine / the dark arts. Show me some of the times they failed terribly and what they learned from it. Let me see them struggle with something that other people in their field generally don’t find difficult like casting a spell or putting on a spacesuit.

I want heroes who have earned the respect they get!

2. The Chosen One Is Often Less Interesting Than Their Sidekicks.

Case in point: Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

There was nothing unlikeable about Buffy. She was generally a kind and courteous girl, and I was fascinated by her adjustment to becoming the most recent Slayer. (That is, a teen girl who was given supernatural strength and healing abilities so that she could save the world from everything that wanted to destroy it. The previous Slayer has to die before the next one is supernaturally chosen).

The problem was that Buffy’s sidekicks were much more relatable and complex than she was. Giles, her watcher (which is like a personal trainer for mystical stuff), was as mystified by teenagers as he was by American culture in general. His very British reactions to some of the biggest differences between the U.S. and England were hilarious.  Willow, her female best friend, was a shy, awkward nerd who had a strong perfectionistic streak. Xander, her male best friend, was a slacker and class clown who hid a lot of painful truths behind his wisecracks and hijinks.

Buffy’s character development simply wasn’t as compelling as the development of those closest to her. She was already athletic, (fairly) popular, self-confident, and tough when the show began. I liked her, but I loved her inner circle because of how much more attention had been paid to the little things that made them unique.

Many Chosen Ones have the same problem. They are so busy saving the world that they often don’t get to develop a well-rounded set of quirks, weird habits, phobias, and/or non-superficial character flaws that their side-kicks get to have.

I want heroes who are deliciously imperfect. Maybe their sidekicks could be stronger, more assertive, or better looking than them. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how a main character would respond to a friend or assistant who intimidated them a little bit or who was better at certain crucial skills than they were?

3. The Chosen One Never Dies in the End

As much as I liked him, Harry Potter really should have been killed off permanently at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

All of the foreshadowing up until that point nudged the readers into this direction. It felt strange to me to see Harry walk away from that final battle. While I knew that J.K. Rowling would try to figure out how to save him because of how rare it is for a protagonist to die in the end, that wasn’t the direction the storyline had been pointing at for all seven books in the series.

After the narrator cut away to show how all of his friends put wizarding society back together after Voldemort is finally defeated, there could have been a beautiful scene showing him reuniting with his parents in the afterlife and realizing that he was finally at peace now.

I could also imagine Harry having a conversation with his parents about wanting to go back to Earth. Maybe his mother would tell him that it was impossible, but that he would be reunited with Ron, Hermione, and everyone else he loved after they’d finished living out the long, full lives that wizards usually get to experience.

There could even be a line in there about how time moves quite differently after death so that the audience would know Harry wouldn’t be missing his friends for as long as we might assume.

Yes, this would have been a tearjerker of an ending, but it also would have tied up all of the foreshadowing in the earlier books much more tightly than technically killing Harry off for a few minutes before finding a magical loophole to bring him back to life again.

I want to start genuinely fearing for the safety of the characters I love. It would be so cool to arrive at the final scene of a story and not know who – if anyone – was going to make it out again. No, I’m not saying that every final confrontation has to be a bloodbath. That would quickly become just as predictable as things are currently.

It would be really nice if there were far fewer last-minute plot twists that allowed characters to live when the first 99% of a book or series foreshadowed their deaths, though.

How do you feel about the Chosen One trope? Do you enjoy it? Do you think it’s been played out? I’ll be talking about this on Twitter today if you’d like to chat about it.