Who has delighted in the Great Hall at Hogwarts bedecked in holiday apparel, caught one of the snowflakes that wafted down from the ceiling on your tongue, giggled at seeing the hairy-footed gnome atop the Weasley’s tree, or couldn’t hold a snicker at hearing Peeves’ raucous version of carols from inside the knight’s armor? Better yet, who felt truly loved and accepted at the Burrow? Or imagined receiving a gift thoughtfully made just for you with love, courtesy of Mrs. Weasley? Yes, Harry stole the Christmas we are used to experiencing with busy family and imperfect friends, and replaced it with an experience only our imaginations could conjure.
Christmastime captures the awe and wonder of children like few other holidays or occasions. We see their joyful anticipation as they scrutinize packages under the tree. We delight in their curiosity and chuckle at their humble attempts to deduce what treasure waits to be discovered in each present bearing their name. We smile and wonder what a child listening attentively to The Night Before Christmas, The Legend of the Christmas Stocking or other holiday tale might be contemplating.
When I was little, I’d watch the mail for the JC Penney Christmas Wish Book. As soon as it arrived, I would dig in and spend hours dreaming of play with an amazing doll house, a fun train set, a cuddly stuffed animal, or other tantalizing toy. Christmas Eve I would leave a plate of cookies and milk for Santa and struggle to stay awake just to hear his reindeer and sleigh on the roof. As I got older, I began to doubt the jolly old man’s existence. But that year I found myself on an airplane on Christmas Eve and the pilot came over the loud speaker announcing, ”Kids, we’ve just spotted Santa off the left side of the plane.” Unfortunately, I sat on the side opposite and by the time I got to a window to look, he had vanished. The following year, soot boot prints, originating from the fireplace, appeared on the carpet of our home, keeping my doubts at bay a bit longer.
I will never forget the year my husband and I decided to give our son fifty dollars as part of his Christmas presents. Knowing he would not understand the magnitude of the gift if it were a single bill, I wrapped fifty, one-dollar bills. When he opened it Christmas day, his eyes lit up, then he jumped up and, waving the wad above his head, yelled, “I’m rich! I’m rich!”
I love those fun memories! And why not? For each of these experiences began with imagination. As an author of children’s fantasy adventures, I thrill at comments I receive from readers saying the world of Oomaldee is described so well they can imagine how everything looks. Others speak to thoroughly enjoying touching moments between characters. These are folks whose imaginations transport them to another place, renewing that spark of wonder that makes them and our world a better place when they return.
So, even though Harry Potter stole Christmas, I won’t be pressing charges or filing a police report. For he is that power that takes us anywhere we can dream and makes us better than we are.