From middle school through college I eagerly anticipated each new HP book release but I don’t think I could have even articulated what drew me in. Looking back, it was more than compelling plots and endearing characters. What I found alluring was the magical world Rowling created. A world full of traditions that brought people together into a strong community where you belonged.
I recently saw some great insights on the richness of Hogwarts traditions being a muted reflection of the the liturgical year in a post about why Rowling’s Harry Potter series was so successful. I had never thought about that, but the comparison immediately hit home for me.
When I was first introduced to the idea of the Christian Year–full of traditions, seasons, and feasts–I was enchanted. The beauty of the rhythms of the liturgical year leading us to walk with Christ through all the seasons of the calendar. The richness of the cultural and food traditions handed down by other Christians all over the world. It was like getting my Hogwarts letter, except I was being invited into Christian tradition, not a school of wizardry.
I fell in love with Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, Lent, and Eastertide. I was participating in something huge and splendid.
Celebrating the Christian Year roots us to a community and because our culture has lost those traditions even in Catholic homes. I think that’s why the liturgical year is making a comeback in Catholic life and beyond. We are hungry for that connection. And I mean that literally. Food culture and traditions are such a rich part of the human experience.
Thanksgiving at my house just isn’t Thanksgiving without Au Gratin Potatoes and my great grandmother’s Chocolate Creme Pie recipe. And it’s just not the Feast of St. Michael without a roast goose. Okay okay, you got me. NOT everyone has a roast goose on September 29th. In fact, almost nobody does. But it used to be a tradition in certain parts of Christendom just like Treacle Tart and Pumpkin Pasties are a must for the Halloween feast at Hogwarts.
Things would have gone like this:
Old Timey Guy #1: What are you having for dinner tonight?
Old Timey Guy #2: Roast Goose, of course! It’s Michaelmas, you fool!
Old Timey Guy #1: By George! I better pick the blackberries before the devil spits on them!
(Liturgical year nerd points if that was funny to you. And tangent: We are totally roasting a goose this year. Get ready.)
I think we deeply miss these traditions that bring us together and root us in community. That’s why we love Hogwarts so much. Who doesn’t want to be part of a house with traditions and history and belong somewhere?
Part of what makes the liturgical year and the Hogwartsian traditions so compelling to us is that our culture has slowly lost community celebration to commercialization. And even though we still have “holidays” they motivate us to spend more than bring us together. We have Christmas. (Buy presents.) Valentine’s Day. (Buy flowers and chocolates). And so it goes.
I think this lack of rich tradition is why we’re so drawn to the magical academic calendar of centuries-old Hogwarts. And it’s why the Christian Year can enchant us by giving us a common language to share with those half a world away and generations back.
I’m never going to see the Headless Hunt or the Hogwarts feast for Halloween. But I can observe Hallowmas on All Hallows Eve by preparing for the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st and then the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd. We have such a rich liturgical history and there is so much beauty. When we light our Advent candles each year and sing an ancient Advent hymn, it takes my breath away.
The Christian Year connects me to something so big and beautiful. Christians all over the world and saints in heaven. Consider this your letter of invitation, even if it didn’t arrive by owl.