"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" 1 The sound of the holiday is upon us, filling every child's heart with dreams of treats and the joy of no school for at least a week. The programming on television is generally predictable during the holidays but new classics have now become a staple of ABC Family's holiday broadcasting: The Harry Potter movies. So Christmas day may indeed find us all gazing happily at a showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while the scent of roasting turkey and the warmth of the hearth at our feet fill our hearts with holiday joy. It would seem that ABC Family has added the Harry Potter movies to their holiday line-up because no movie does Christmas as much justice; Hogwarts Castle rivals all other films with its depiction of a perfectly romantic Christmas feeling. While the tired but happy family sits in the center of the holiday aftermath, stockings no longer hung with care but instead lying discarded and empty by the fire, a sprinkling of empty boxes and wrapping paper balls surrounding them, it will happen. The twinkle of the Christmas tree beside the television will bring on a poignant reminder of Albus Dumbledore's twinkling eyes and ’ like a bolt of lightning ’ the connection will be made. Dumbledore does, in fact, have an undeniable similarity to the man who delivered the very presents unwrapped and now strewn throughout the room. This man is known by a confusingly long list of aliases: St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Pere NoÃ«l, Sinterklaas, Weihnachtsmann, Babbo Natale, Sveti Nikola, and Santa Claus (to name only a few). Is it possible that he is also Albus Dumbledore? I think you will find that the evidence supporting this notion is, well, incontrovertible.
Saint Nicholas, the man from whom the idea of Santa Claus is allegedly derived, was born during the third century in a village known as Patara, a Greek colony located in what is now present day Turkey.2 The story of his life is one of charity and good will. It is an inspirational story for any devout Christian, for Nicholas' wealthy parents died of disease when he was young, and he then generously gave his inheritance away to assist the needy.3 After that he dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra at an unusually young age.4 Our information about him comes from an account recorded 250 years after Nicholas' death, introducing a fair amount of doubt as to its accuracy.5 Also, because he lived thousands of years ago it is impossible to know for sure who he was and what he was really like. Today, he is considered one of the most popular patron saints and is (among other patronages) the patron saint of schoolchildren. 6 His long life of generosity and faith brought him to the status of sainthood; he was lucky, most saints at that time died as martyrs. 7
It is said that eventually the idea of Father Christmas (or Santa Claus) grew out of the feast day of Saint Nicholas on December 6th (the day of his death). 8 And yet I find myself with many questions about Saint Nicholas' link to Santa Claus. How did he become associated with schoolchildren? None of his legends can be confirmed nor does even one deal with schoolchildren. 9 And in this modern age, we tell children that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, flies on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, has an army of elves working for him, and can perform magical acts such as traveling to every home on Earth in one night, conjuring presents, and squeezing down chimneys. There are dramatic differences between the real St. Nicholas and the modern Santa Claus. To me, there is something suspicious about this lack of connection; it seems there must be other factors involved in defining all the qualities of Santa Claus.
It doesn't take a genius to notice the marked similarities between the abilities of Santa Claus and those of Albus Dumbledore. The North Pole and St. Nicholas' native southern coast of Turkey share precious little in common. Not so, though, of the North Pole and the Scottish Highlands in winter. I imagine many a Hogwarts student hardly notices the difference. Hogwarts, with all its secret annals and hidden chambers, seems a far more likely location for Santa's workshop than a sheet of barren ice. Also, Dumbledore's long status as headmaster makes him truly a patron of schoolchildren, whereas St. Nicholas had little to no connection with them himself. Even Dumbledore's death seems more saintly, as he did give his life to save the world from evil.10
Further, Dumbledore looks nearly exactly like modern depictions of St. Nicholas, whereas Saint Nicholas himself does not.
Figure 1. Above, from left to right, are images of modern Saint Nicholas,11 Albus Dumbledore,12 and ancient Saint Nicholas. 13
Notice how similar the first two images are: from the shape of their noses to their choice of attire, they can hardly be distinguished. Yet the image of Saint Nicholas to the far right looks little like his modern depiction to the far left; isn't it more likely that Dumbledore is in fact the model for Santa Claus? The description of Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone lends further weight to my case:
He was tall, thin, and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt. He was wearing long robes, a purple cloak that swept the ground, and high-heeled, buckled boots. His blue eyes were light, bright, and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles.14
Dumbledore's bright "twinkling" 15 eyes are mentioned in the series many times, and we all know that Santa is described by Clement Moore as having "eyes – how they twinkled!" 16 in "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Further note above the presence of "high-heeled buckled boots' exactly the shoes that always accompany Santa's red suit. Coincidence? I think not.
In the 1970 movie Santa Claus is Comin' to Town you will recall that Kris Kringle (one of Santa's many aliases) had red hair as a youth. This connects him in yet another uncanny way to Dumbledore for, as we saw in the Pensieve, Dumbledore was also redheaded as a young man.17
Now, I realize many will think Santa Claus should be a fat and jolly little man who smokes a pipe, but that was a new description created by Washington Irving in 1809 in a brilliant satirical history known as Knickerbocker's History of New York and had nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever. It included the description of a ship's bowhead with the image of St. Nicholas as, "equipped with a low, broad-brimmed hat, a huge pair of Flemish trunk hose, and a pipe that reached to the end of the bow-sprit." 18 This book influenced America's idea of Santa Claus dramatically but has no basis in fact. Prior to that, I assure you that Father Christmas was a tall, thin man, as can be seen in the 1686 depiction of him below:
Figure 2. This is an image taken from Josiah King's The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686) published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England. 19
Honestly, the above image of Father Christmas (i.e. Albus Dumbledore) caught me by surprise. The magically conjured feast before him and the crowd of wizards in the background, brandishing their wands, reveals both his secret wizard nature and the blindness of Muggles to the signs around them! Likewise, observe in the following images how difficult it is to tell who's who in the world of magical gift givers:
Figure 3. Though of course they are all Dumbledore in essence they are meant to be, from top left across as though reading, Santa, 20 Dumbledore, 21 Dumbledore, 22 Dumbledore, 23 Santa, 24 Dumbledore, 25 Dumbledore, 26 Santa, 27 Dumbledore. 28
In these depictions, one can hardly hope to distinguish Dumbledore from Father Christmas. This is because they are one and the same person. I am not suggesting an allegory here; I am saying that Albus Dumbledore himself is in fact Father Christmas! This represents yet another of Albus Dumbledore's many secrets ’ this one intended to disguise his real identity as Santa Claus.
Referring back to the abilities of Santa Claus, these traits are all things that would seem quite extraordinary for a fourth-century bishop, but quite normal for the esteemed wizard Albus Dumbledore. Traveling by the Floo Network, Dumbledore could easily enter homes via the chimney. Thestrals could also appear very similar to reindeer if they were hitched to a sleigh; though the sleigh might simply be seen as flying by itself if one could not see the thestrals at all. This idea is not so far fetched. The wizard rock band The Mudbloods has told "An Epic Christmas Tale. Chapter One: How The Thestrals Saved Christmas." 29 In this account they witness not only thestrals used to pull Santa's sleigh but also Santa himself dueling Death Eaters. This is an eyewitness account to corroborate my belief that Dumbledore is truly Santa Claus. Further, he often conjures items from thin air: a chintz arm chair in Order of the Phoenix,30 purple sleeping bags in Prisoner of Azkaban,31 two glasses and a bottle of gin for Mrs. Cole,32 and a dusty bottle of mead and five glasses for the Dursleys.33 And note that it is his words "Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!' 34 not his wand, that bring on the delicious Hogwarts feast that is described in identical terms to what one would associate with Christmas dinner.35 And merely clapping his hands changes the Slytherin banners to Gryffindor banners at the end of Sorcerer's Stone.36 In fact, as demonstrated in those examples, Dumbledore's ability to perform magic without a wand is another important feature he shares with Santa Claus.
We know also that he has a rather unusually large staff of elves on hand at Hogwarts.37 And Professor Flitwick has himself often been an interesting and unexplained oddity in the books. He is quite magical and quite small, described as having a somewhat squeaky voice and being "tiny." 38 His heritage is never thoroughly explained, nor is his lack of membership in the Order of the Phoenix. I suggest he is Dumbledore's "head elf" and he is very busy managing the production of so many toys and tracking who is naughty and nice, thus he is unable to work for the Order being fully occupied with his management of the Hogwarts workshop and his duties as Charms Professor. Charms are clearly something Santa's head honcho should be an expert at as well. The fact that Rowling did actually answer a question about Flitwick's heritage, stating he is part goblin,39 is likely all part of the cover-up. He is far too cheery to have any goblin blood, so I propose his reduced stature is truly attributed to his being at least part elf.
Dumbledore also demonstrates a strong tendency to give mysterious and valuable gifts, just as one would expect from Santa Claus. First, Dumbledore gives Harry the Invisibility Cloak at Christmas with a note signed only, "A Very Merry Christmas to you." 40 This is exactly the sort of anonymous gift-giving attributed to Father Christmas. Years later, other valuable gifts are bestowed by Dumbledore on Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows brings the Sword of Gryffindor and a golden snitch containing the Resurrection Stone to Harry, the children's book The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Hermione, and the Deluminator to Ron.41 These are not only mysterious, but also reminiscent of the powerful and, in some cases, magical gifts bestowed by Father Christmas on Peter, Susan, and Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.42 Peter receives a sword not unlike the Sword of Gryffindor, and Susan receives a horn that is used to bring her aid as the Deluminator brought Ron to Harry. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Susan uses the horn to call for help when attacked by a wolf, Peter responds to the call, and slays the wolf with his sword to save her. 43 In Deathly Hallows, the Deluminator brings Ron to Harry just in time to save Harry and use the Sword of Gryffindor to slay the Horcrux locket.44
Other evidence abounds. First, if you take the words "Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore" and rearrange the letters you get: "Santa Claus: A full-bearded December lover" (with surprisingly few characters remaining unused). Coincidence? I think not.
Further, there is the matter of the "thick, woolen socks." 45 What else would be the heart's desire of Santa Claus, who must travel frequently to very cold parts of the world? This, and the reference to his use of earmuffs,46 clearly shows a man who needs to keep very warm, a man who perhaps flies in an open sleigh on very cold nights.
Possibly one of the most convincing bits of evidence is Dumbledore's knowledge and enjoyment of Muggle sweets. How is it that he knows so much about lemon drops or sherbet lemons?47 Probably because Santa Claus needs a very strong knowledge of Muggle sweets in order to properly stuff Muggle stockings with them on Christmas Eve. Further, he clearly fancies hot cocoa as much as Santa Claus should,48 even going so far as to prescribe it as a remedy for Ginny after her ordeal in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: " ˜Bed rest and perhaps a large, steaming mug of hot chocolate. I always find that cheers me up,' [Dumbledore said], twinkling kindly down at her." 49 Surely Santa Claus would express this sentiment identically to Dumbledore down to the very twinkle of his eyes.
Jo Rowling's confusion over Dumbledore's age is another bit of evidence pointing to his secret identity. Of course, his true age and identity must stay hidden or she risks confusing the millions of children who read the Harry Potter books with the realization that Dumbledore and Santa Claus are one and the same. Not to mention the death of Dumbledore coming as an even more painful blow as a result of this knowledge. And honestly, once you reach 115 or 150 years old what's another thousand years thrown into the mix?50 Possibly, when Rowling alluded to his having worked on the Sorcerer's Stone with Nicholas Flamel51 ¦ hmm, Nicholas ¦ she intended to imply he'd been alive for over 600 years. Unless Flamel is just one of Dumbledore's previous secret identities. After all, we never meet this so-called Flamel. The Sorcerer's Stone could both be used to explain Dumbledore's mysteriously long life and its destruction could have contributed to his eventual death.
The question at this point is with whom does Rowling intend to replace him? It is clear that someone will need to do so and, though Severus Snape may have been an obvious candidate, groomed carefully for the position, I find myself inexplicably relieved he will not become the next Santa Claus. I think there is, however, one clear candidate to replace Dumbledore as Santa Claus: Ronald Weasley. Sure, he might help George with the joke shop or Harry with the Auror office,52 but really, he is clearly suited to the role of magical gift-giver. He is similar in appearance to a young Dumbledore, being tall, thin, and redheaded, and he is prone to merriment and enjoys feasts. You may recall Ron owns a watch that is described as "heavy gold [¦] with odd symbols around the edge and tiny moving stars instead of hands' 53 and that Dumbledore in turn owns a similar watch with twelve hands and little planets moving around the outside instead of numbers.54 The reason for this striking similarity is never explained in the books, but possibly Dumbledore used this watch for his December duties and Ron's watch will now aid him in the same way. Further, Ron has recently developed an affinity for elves,55 an essential quality of Santa Claus. Note, also, that the name "Ronald Bilius Weasley" rearranges to be: "Now Yule ride bliss"! 56 Coincidence? I think not. And most convincing, the Deluminator will likely serve as a useful device to maintain his cover during his December duties, offering a possible explanation for why Father Christmas is almost never caught in the act of delivering presents.
Each Christmas Eve, I imagine Santa Claus as he flies all over the world stopping often to pollinate each home with good cheer by dropping gifts carefully down the chimney. He is a wizard of epic goodness and a bumblebee of holiday tidings. Coincidentally (or not), the word "dumbledore" is an archaic word that means bumblebee; 57 a more fitting description of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve is hard to imagine. You can see that Dumbledore has all the traits and skills of Santa Claus: he is powerfully magical, has a staff of elves under his command, looks far more like him than the 4th Century Bishop Nicholas of Myra, he dies a true martyr's death, he is a proven patron of schoolchildren, and he has been shown giving mysterious gifts often. Need I say more? So, in his honor, I am renaming Christmas Eve "St. Dumbledore's Feast' and this year I will be celebrating with a feast to rival the best Hogwarts can deliver. I will then wait quietly by the chimney for Ron's arrival and will be sure to offer him a sherbet lemon with his homemade chocolate chip cookie. Please join me on Christmas Eve in shouting, "Happy St. Dumbledore's Day to all and to all a good night!"
1 Cahn & Styne, "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
2 Wikipedia, s.v. "Saint Nicholas."
3 Saint Nicholas Center, "Who is Saint Nicholas?"
5 Seal, Nicholas, 15.
6 Catholic Community Forum, "Nicholas of Myra."
7 H.G.H., "The Era of Martyrdom."
8 Saint Nicholas Center, "Who is Saint Nicholas?"
9 Ott, "Saint Nicholas of Myra."
10 Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 595’96. See also Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 680’83.
11 Seals, "St. Nicholas." Image from Saint Nicholas Center, "Who is Saint Nicholas?"
12 Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie, 2001. Image from The Culture Beat.
13 "St. Nicholas" (Russian icon in the Elsner Collection). Image from Wikipedia, s.v. "Saint Nicholas."
14 Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 8.
15 Ibid., 127. See also: Chamber of Secrets, 330 and Goblet of Fire, 417, among many others.
16 Moore, "Visit from St. Nicholas' line 37.
17 Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 245.
18 Irving, Knickerbocker's History of New York.
19 King, "Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas." Image from Wikipedia, s.v. "Father Christmas."
20 This image was made by Caltheous. The Santa Claus ornament is from Mardi Gras Zone.
21 Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie, 2001. This image was edited by Caltheous to include a snowy backdrop consistent with the Scottish Highlands in winter.
22 Wack, "Albus Dumbledore." Image from The Harry Potter Lexicon.
23 Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie, 2001. Image from LOADTR.COM.
24 This image was created by Caltheous. The blue velvet Santa Claus figure is from Byers' Choice Ltd.
25 Shoomlah, "Alba Albus." Image from DeviantArt.
26 Jones, "Dumblydore." Image from The Leaky Cauldron. Used with permission.
27 This image was created by Caltheous. The Santa Claus doll is from Premier Designs Historic Clothing.
28 LooneyLucy, "Dumbledore's Portrait." Image from DeviantArt. This image has been edited by Caltheous, the frame of his portrait was removed and a Santa hat was placed gently upon his head.
29 The Mudbloods, "How the Thestrals Saved Christmas."
30 Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 139.
31 Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 163.
32 Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 265.
33 Ibid., 48.
34 Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 123.
36 Ibid., 306.
37 Ibid, Goblet of Fire, 181’82.
38 Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 203.
39 Rowling Official Site, "Is Flitwick a short human?"
40 Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 202, 299.
41 Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 125’29.
42 Lewis, Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, 108’9.
43 Ibid., 130’31.
44 Rowling, Deathly Hallows, 370’86.
45 Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 214.
46 Ibid., 11.
47 Ibid., 10.
48 Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 180.
49 Ibid., 330.
50 Lexicon, "Albus Dumbledore."
51 Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 103.
52 Ibid., "Live Chat' Bloomsbury.com and Viera & Brown, "Finished Potter?"
53 Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 390.
54 Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 12.
55 Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 625.
56 Only i-l-u are remaining!
57 Answers.com Dictionary, s.v. "Dumbledore."
Answers.com Dictionary, s.v. "Dumbledore." http://www.answers.com/topic/dumbledor.
Byers' Choice Ltd. "Blue Velvet Santa." http://www.byerschoice.com/carolerchronicle/images/BlueVelvetSanta.jpg (accessed 30 November 2007).
Cahn, Sammy (lyricist) and Jule Styne (composer). "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" First recorded by Vaughn Monroe, RCA-Victor, 1945.
The Catholic Community Forum. "Nicholas of Myra." Patron Saints Index, http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintn01.htm.
The Culture Beat.
http://www.theculturebeat.com/wp-content/photos/Albus_Dumbledore.jpg (accessed 21 November 2007).
The Harry Potter Lexicon. "Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore (1881-1997)." http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/dumbledore.html (accessed 27 November 2007).
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Directed by Christopher Columbus. Burbank: Warner Bros. Pictures, 2001.
H.G.H. "The Era of Martyrdom." The Treasury of Martyrs and Saints. http://www.martyrsandsaints.org/ (accessed 21 November 2007).
Irving, Washington. Knickerbocker's History of New York. Chicago: W.B. Conkey, 1809. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13042/13042.txt.
King, Josiah (artist). "The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas' 1686. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:FatherChristmastrial.jpg (accessed 29 November 2007).
J.K. Rowling Official Site. "Is Flitwick a short human or is he some other type of being?" http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=95
(accessed 21 November 2007).
Jones, Dani (artist). "Dumblydore." Harry Potter Art, http://harryhotterhrt.blogspot.com, The Leaky Cauldron, http://fanart.the-leaky-cauldron.org/picture/view/1160 (accessed 29 November 2007).
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: Scholastic, 1950.
LooneyLucy (artist). "Dumbledore's Portrait." The Leaky Cauldron, http://fanart.the-leaky-cauldron.org/picture/view/2983, DeviantArt,
http://loonyl.deviantart.com/art/Dumbledore-s-portrait-56396532 (accessed 27 November 2007).
Loadtr.com. "Dumbledore." http://tinyurl.com/346s66 (accessed 30 November 2007).
Mardi Gras Zone. "Blue Velvet 9" Santa Face."
http://mardigraszone.com/store/images/xj65-3490_4.jpg (accessed 30 November 2007).
Moore, Clement C. "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Troy, New York Sentinel, 23 December 1823.
Premier Designs Historic Clothing. "Victorian St. Nicholas." http://www.premierclothing.com/scripts/prodList.asp?idCategory=37 (accessed 30 November 2007).
The Mudbloods. "An Epic Christmas Tale, Chapter One: How the Thestrals Saved Christmas." From the Jingle Spells: Leaky's Rocking Christmas 2007 album, The Leaky Cauldron, 2007.
Ott, Michael T. "Saint Nicholas of Myra." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11063b.htm (accessed 3 November 2007).
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
”””. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
”””. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
”””. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
”””. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: Scholastic Press, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
”””. "J.K. Rowling and the Live Chat." Bloomsbury.com, 30 July 2007.
http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/0730-bloomsbury-chat.html (accessed 20 November 2007).
Seal, Jeremy. Nicholas: The Epic Journey From Saint to Santa Claus. New York: Bloomsbury, 2005.
Seals, Susan (artist). "St. Nicholas." Image from "Who is Saint Nicholas?" Saint Nicholas Center, http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38(accessed 3 November 2007).
Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. New York, NY: Rankin/Bass Productions, 1970.
Saint Nicholas Center. "Who is Saint Nicholas?" http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38 (accessed 3 November 2007).
Shoomlah (artist). "Alba Albus." DeviantArt. http://shoomlah.deviantart.com/art/Alba-Albus-34800446 (accessed 27 November 2007).
Vieira, Meredith and Jen Brown. "Finished ˜Potter'? Rowling tells what happens next." The Today Show (NBC), 26 July 2007. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19959323/.
Wack, Alice (artist). "Albus Dumbledore." The Harry Potter Lexicon. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/about/concordance/a/artwork/aw/aw_portraits.html (accessed 27 November 2007).
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Father Christmas." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_Christmas (accessed 29 November 2007).
”””, s.v. "Saint Nicholas."
(accessed 3 November 2007).