January is without doubt the bleakest month. Christmas has faded to a vague cinnamon-scented memory. Our bank accounts and straining waistlines are grim reminders of all that guilty festive excess. Worse still is the collective dawning horror as we contemplate the endless weeks of cheerless winter to be endured between now and springtime.
Or at least, that’s one way of looking at it. There’s also the bracing possibility of a fresh start, a blank page, a chance to begin anew. Even a certain frosty camaraderie to be enjoyed with the people we love in the frigid weather. Here’s how Harry and chums showed us to be of good cheer at this bitter time of year…
Everybody’s back at school
Even for Muggles, the Christmas holidays are a magical time of food, family, long lie-ins and plenty of presents. But who among us doesn’t find certain people a little trying, especially after being shut in together for so long? No one can blame Harry for staying back at Hogwarts rather than exchanging more small-talk than was needed with the Dursleys.
Being outside can still be fun
Okay, it’s certainly not picnic weather. But there’s plenty of joy to be had outdoors, like the time Hagrid laid on some toasty entertainment for students…
The last thing anyone felt like doing was spending two hours in the grounds on a raw January morning, but Hagrid had provided a bonfire full of salamanders for their enjoyment, and they spent an unusually good lesson collecting dry wood and leaves to keep the fire blazing, while the flame-loving lizards scampered up and down the crumbling, white-hot logs.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
See? Even the salamanders had a blast.
Quidditch is back
Although training is extra brutal on account of biting winds and rock-hard ground, this is where the season really hots up for our heroes on broomsticks. Just as with Muggle football, every game from this point on counts. Those extra punishing hours required to rise to the challenge are perfect for working off that festive podge, whether you’re swooping after the Golden Snitch as captain of Gryffindor, or a Muggle practicing throw-ins. You heard us — get out there!
It’s a chance to show off your tough side…
Viktor Krum showed us just what Durmstrang boys were made of by leaping from the school ship into the icy waters of Hogwarts’ Great Lake in January to prepare for his Triwizard Tournament campaign. His steely resolve in the bitter conditions, and limber form, certainly didn’t go unnoticed by young Hermione Granger.
…or just slope off to the pub
After noting Viktor’s impressive indifference to the cold, Harry, Hermione and Ron wandered down into the village of Hogsmeade. Of all the places they could have gone, The Three Broomsticks turned out to be the one they went for. When it’s slushy outside, what could be finer than settling down with your best friends over a few judgement-free Butterbeers?
It can’t get much worse…
Professor Trelawney may have been a somewhat tactless when she told Harry that his lifelines were the shortest she’d ever seen, during the first Divination lesson of the first day back. However, if you’re going to get rubbish news then it’s better to get it on a rubbish day. When you’re at rock bottom (and we all know that first-day-back feeling) then surely the only way is up.
…but there’s always something to celebrate
Christmas is over and you’re all partied out, eh? Well, you probably know someone whose birthday it is in January. That someone, moreover, is probably used to people making excuses for not making an effort. All right, you’re financially challenged, currently. And you’re probably still hungover. But your friends still deserve a party, so let them know you care this January. Even Gilderoy Lockhart (whose birthday falls on 26 January) could use some love, you know.