I like the Harry Potter novels. I can forgive most of their flaws and holes, but the presence of Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter takes me right out of the narrative. Yes, of course, I realize those holidays are pagan in origin, and it’d be different if the characters were acknowledging them as such, especially since the strange customs of the non-magical world is a running theme. But, no. It’s Christmas and Easter and Halloween and all the stuff the readers can identify with.
Ay, there’s the rub: enough of Rowling’s world is
cribbed from other sources make-believe that keeping in such recognizable holidays helps keep things grounded for the younger kids. Not to mention the older ones. And can you imagine how much more flak the books would get from Fundamentalists if Christmas was replaced with Saturnalia or Natalis Invicti? As it is, probably the worst influence the books have is introducing children to faux Latin.
The other factor is that the books are set in England, a real country with traditions and holidays based on real seasons. If the books took place in a completely fictional world, the presence of such recognizable celebrations would be all the more jarring.
A completely fictional world like Second Life, for example. It exists nowhere but within the ecology-destroying servers of the mysterious Linden Lab (you gotta admit, they sound sinister) and the fevered imaginations of its players. It’s a world started from scratch. Okay, sure, based on humans, as fictional universes must be if they’re going to be created and understood by humans, but a clean slate all the same. Andyet
See, it’s winter in Second Life. Indeed, the Third Annual Second Life Winter Festival ended a few days ago. Put on by the Linden Overlords themselves, it featured such events as a “Grid-Wide Snowball Fight,” breathlessly described on the Official Linden Blog with gratuitous scare quotes, insufficient hyphenation and questionable user stats as
a special event you won’t want to miss – a massive all day, all grid snowball fight where Linden Lab staffers will take on all Second Life Residents! *gulp* All almost 2 million of you. Catch us if you can – all across the grid â€“ on Thursday, December 21.
We’ll also have several “official Linden” snowball events in Linden Locations throughout the day where you will be sure to “spot” a Linden.
State-sponsored anarchy the likes of which hasn’t been since the red hour huh? Actually, Second Life does kinda sound like something out of an original Trek episode. It would be so cool to see the Enterprise phasers make the Linden computers asplode. Or, better yet, Kirk could convince the main Linden computer to self-destruct by pointing out the damage that Second Life is causing to the real life of many of its players. Someone should talk to those Star Trek: New Voyages kids, because anything would be better than those first few scripts, the painful squandering of such a great premise with fanboy self-awareness and
Anyway, it’s winter in Second Life, which makes sense, because it’s winter in meatspace. Isn’t it?
Huh. Well, it’s winter here in the United frackin’ States, the Only Country That Matters. Naturally there would be the snowball fights and sleigh rides and all that other nonsense on Second Life, since it tries so desperately hard to mimic real life. The idealized real life, that is. (When was the last time you through a snowball or gone for a sleigh ride? Exactly.) Feeling that something wasn’t quite right, I sent an IM to my friend Ali asking what it’s like in her native Sydney, Australia. Her informal weather report:
Mostly warm and sunny, but not nearly as hot as a December would normally be.
Right! In half of meatspace, it’s summer. The Winter Festival isn’t even being marketed as a way for those unfortunate south-of-the-Equator types to enjoy the weather of the Better Hemisphere. Just because we can reach the entire worldand I still love that I was able to ping a friend in Australia and essentially ask her to look out her windowdoesn’t mean the entire world is being represented. Shock value? Nil. There’s nothing new under this particular sun, real or virtual, whichever pole it’s closest to at the moment.
Oh, and, like, Merry Christmas and stuff. Keep an eye out for Santa’s boat.
Here’s how I see winter (being a SoCal native) … it’s a fantasy. Of course, I just learned that real-life snowflakes look just like the fantasy I’ve always had of snowflakes. You know, all pointy and lacy and delicate. Who knew? I’ve always been fascinated by our culture’s insistence on “winter” as a real thing. To find winter, I have to drive a very long way, and even then (as I learned after the great snowflake discovery), winter is fleeting unless you get very lucky or a lot of storms. Within hours, the roads were dry as dust and the snow had melted in most places.
So maybe the insistence on offering up a winter wonderland is really a bow toward building a fantasy. Without frostbite.
I am enjoying your series very much!