Harry Potter Life Lesson #3

Wizards know how to party.  Did you notice that in the Harry Potter series?  A favorite cafe of mine in St. Louis boasts from its bakery case, “Treacle Tart: A Favourite of Harry Potter’s.”  Each of the seven books provided a sort of liturgy–that is to say, as reader, you knew what to expect at the outset of each new volume: we’d open with Harry away from school, then he’d go to school, then everyone would attend a feast.  Adventures abound, and then would come winter finals, and a Christmas feast.  More adventures, some stress, mounting tension over the great quest of the year, and then an Easter week feast.  A climax, a resolution, the end of the school year…

Why bother with these feasts, or with including meals at all?  On a more detailed level, where do our heroes meet before (almost) every Quidditch (a wizard sport) match?  They meet early in the Great Hall to eat.  Where do our heroes trudge before classes and between exams?  To the Great Hall.  To eat.  (TOGETHER).

For aficionados of the Harry Potter series, one of the most vivid sites at Hogwarts is that of the Great Hall, the gathering place for the community, the place where everyone eats together.  During Ron & Hermoine’s months-long fight, they still sit together and eat (in silence) at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall.  As a sort of reset button and a moment that can be counted on, the feasts of Hogwarts (and at times, the characters’ homes and camp sites) provide a figurative space set apart.  Worries are forgotten during meals, people are most able to keep their mental demons at bay–those eating together pull each other into the present, allowing moments of enjoyment and peace in the midst of the battles against evil which creep ever closer throughout the series.

Something happens to relationships when humans eat together.  The wizards celebrated, mourned, and counted time by their meeting to eat.  We do the same thing, sometimes (not as often as we did, perhaps, in times past), but I wonder what would happen if we did it more of the time–if we recognized the power of sitting down in uncomfortable places and eating together.

It’s not a coincidence that JK Rowling included big, important meals in her series; I think she was reminding us of the power of sitting together at the same table and eating in spite of broken friendships, tragedy, or danger.  Continuing to show up at the table at the appointed time, even when you aren’t sure if your eating partners will, is a way we can be present for each other the way that God has been present to us already.

The wizards’ parties were a way to show their love and commitment to each other–it’s a celebration of their relationships–as well as a place that can offer a familiarity and safety in the midst of upsetting circumstances.  Whether you are with your loved ones at a glorious spread on fine china in a well-appointed dining room, at a diner late at night hunched over pie and coffee, or huddled around a fire outside eating something that the campfire burnt, it’s what happens in the moments you share, more than the food itself, that you remember and that encourages you–feeds you.

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