July 31st — Harry Birthday!
Tomorrow (in our time zone at least) marks Harry Potter’s 29th birthday so I’m starting off the celebration by reliving the Harry Birthday party my cousin Dianne and I threw a couple of years ago, shortly after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I’ve a million other things to do tonight, so I’m posting an article I wrote for Manila Bulletin (dated 13 August 2007) after the legendary Harry Birthday Party! :)
Warning: extreme fandom alert. Hahaha, I think this is the first time my Harry Potter obsession will actually appear in this blog, so to my newfound book blogger friends, I hope you enjoy reading this!
A Very Harry Birthday
A few years ago, my best friend dragged me to a birthday party thrown in honor of Vic Zhou (of the famous F4). I remember shaking my head in disbelief as the birthday celebrant materialized in the form of a cardboard standee and was mobbed by a roomful of shrieking fangirls. Of course, back then, I had no idea I’d actually top that by throwing a birthday party for a fictional character.
The idea started out innocently enough: my cousin Dianne and I were on a Deathly Hallows high. By high I mean that we had reread the Harry Potter books in preparation for Book 7; theorized intensely about the ending and various other parts of the book for the past seven years; monitored the Internet for any and all Potter-related news and information; showed up at a Deathly Hallows press party in head-to-toe costume as Luna Lovegood and Nymphadora Tonks (made completely from scratch) and beat the living spirits out of the rest of the contenders in the inter-house trivia contest; showed up at ten minutes past 6 am on the morning of the book launch at our favorite bookstore in our custom-made “In Snape We Trust” shirts; and shunned the rest of the world that weekend (conferencing every once in a while after particularly significant chapters) as we voraciously pored over our new books.
After several days of discussing the latest installment in the Harry Potter series, mourning all the character deaths and reliving our favorite scenes, I asked Dianne if she wanted to go out to dinner on the 31st, to celebrate Harry Potter’s 27th birthday (note: 27th, because Harry was born on July 31, 1980). Because it was her exam week at med school, we had to postpone the celebration to the closest weekend, and then voila – before we could even think it through, we had decided to throw a birthday party for Harry Potter.
Working like house-elves
It wasn’t actually the first time we were throwing a theme party. We’ve had plenty of experience in that department, as the last parties we’d thrown were of a variety of themes – jetsetter, fiesta, princess, luau, murder mystery. It wasn’t even going to be the first Harry Potter party we ever threw, as we already did a couple of birthday parties with that theme, but we’ve never had so much to prepare for a party in such a short time frame.
Despite our impossible schedules (it was Dianne’s exam week in med school, and apart from my full-time job, I was in the thick of preparing for the annual exhibition of the artist’s group I’m part of), our fanaticism prevailed. We decided to take on the challenge of throwing a party in honor of Harry Potter.
We decided on a menu consisting of wizard food – actual food from the books – and to transform Dianne’s house into Hogwarts, and started planning from there. We had exactly one week to test recipes, prepare the décor, and invite people.
We researched on wizard food (thank God for the people over at the Harry Potter Lexicon) and compiled recipes tried out by other Potter fans all over the world. We had to modify most of the recipes, and even invent our own, because most of the ingredients weren’t readily available in the country. Then we had to scour the toy stores for our décor. Just our luck, most of the toy stores were having clearance sales on Halloween items, and so we capitalized on that.
Finally, we had to send the word out about our party. At first we wanted to charge people, since we were shelling out our own money for an all-out party, but in the spirit of fun, we decided to waive the fee for people who came in costume. We spread the word among our friends, their friends, and even random strangers, just so we would have people to celebrate Harry’s birthday with, flooding them with text messages, emails, and online announcements.
Meanwhile, as an assortment of replies flowed in (yeses, nos, maybes, and the frequently incredulous “Are you serious?” and “Is this for real?”), we were getting our hands dirty producing a paper sculpture of Harry on his broom, testing out several versions of butterbeer, amassing an incredible amount of sweets for our Honeydukes corner, and creating props for the party.
The last 24 hours before the party were spent cramming bits and pieces for the party (plus a school report Dianne had to turn in the following morning in school): cooking up a storm of food for the wizard feast, and creating several dozen wizard books by hand, making us wish we actually had magical powers to help us with the load of tasks, or time turners to give us more time to prepare.
The hours sped by, and soon we were good to go. At record speed, we had transformed the house into Hogwarts Castle. The dining area served as the Great Hall. We attached some candles to the ceiling with nylon thread, to make them look like they were floating, while the Harry Potter sculpture went under the lamp, hovering above the table. We then layered boxes on top of the dining table for that tiered look, and draped it with an ornate table cloth.
We designated special corners for the different subjects, where we stacked various Hogwarts textbooks and reference materials, and other magical paraphernalia. We had a Divination corner with a crystal ball, tarot cards, and a tea cup with dregs of tea leaves; a Quidditch corner with a local broom, a golden snitch and a beater’s club; a Charms corner with various enchanted objects; a Transfiguration area with a chalkboard explaining how to transform a snail into a teacup; a Care of Magical Creatures corner with strange animals (including a blibbering humdinger) and an erumpent horn; a Herbology corner that was an explosion of flowers and greenery; and even a Potions Open Bar (in honor of our favorite character, Severus Snape), with an assortment of drinks for guests to blend their own brew.
“Nitwit, Blubber, Oddment, Tweak!”
And so the party began. Guests started coming in at around half-past seven, Harry Potter fans of varying degrees – those who’ve only seen the movies, to those who’ve read some of the books, those who just finished the whole series, and even a fans as hardcore as we were.
Surprisingly, there were more people in costume than we had anticipated, and we were able to put together an ensemble of Hogwarts students, Harry Potter, Professor Snape, Professor Trelawney, Dolores Umbridge, Bellatrix Lestrange, Rita Skeeter, a veela, a golden snitch, and a handful of muggles. A couple of guests even had special Dumbledore’s Army shirts to sell at the party!
Wizards, magical creatures, enchanted objects, and muggles alike enjoyed the sumptuous dinner we had prepared – Herbology salad, shepherd’s pie, stoat sandwiches (made of ham), chicken sandwiches, pasta with Molly Weasley’s Bechamel sauce, crackers with cheese and dips, and pumpkin pasties, and a golden snitch birthday cake. For dessert, we had a Honeydukes corner crammed with goodies – chocolate frogs, cockroach clusters, cauldron cakes, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, acid pops, lemon drops, jelly slugs, leprechaun gold coins, Drooble’s Best-Blowing Gum, and Nosebleed Nougats.
We prepared a scrapbook for the guests to fill in with their thoughts about all things Harry Potter such as their favorite characters, favorite moments, best villains, and even proposed alternate endings, sparking spirited debates all over the party. Bertie Botts Beans were sampled among the guests, producing a range of reactions from sheer delight to utter disgust. Then we set off on the Horcrux Hunt, where the guests searched for the seven horcurxes hidden all over the party area. Guests turned the place inside out, and Bellatrix Lestrange tied with a Slytherin student for the top prizes.
We then gathered around the golden snitch cake to sing Harry a Happy Birthday song, and one of the guests (who was really celebrating her birthday that night) blew out the candles. Several rounds of specially brewed butterbeers and about a gazillion pictures later, the happy guests went home with the latest issue of The Quibbler, with their souvenir photos on the front page.
As we herded out the last of the party stragglers and collapsed on the couch, Dianne and I couldn’t help but look back on the seven years we’d spent reading Harry Potter, from the time we imagined we went to high school at Hogwarts and assigned professors and wizard subjects to our daily class schedule, to the release of the very last book, when we really pulled out all the stops in celebration of the whole series. We couldn’t help but feel that it really was the end — the end of the books we had grown up on and loved so much, and the end of an era that had shaped much of our adolescent lives. The end… until our next Harry Potter party, that is.
Harry Halloween, anyone?
***end of article***
I can’t believe it’s already been two years since the party!
There is no grand celebration for us this year (perhaps we’ll get matching margaritas and drink to Harry… and Snape, hehe), but the day is just as special as it has always been for us ever since we started reading Harry Potter. Dianne and I plan to top this one, perhaps in a few years. After all, the fanaticism hasn’t waned, and perhaps it’s even stronger, as we’ve both been collecting Harry Potter international editions since last year.
This post is the first of a series of Harry Potter blog entries in celebration of July 31, so watch out for two more coming up soon. I will be giving away a new, hardbound Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Bloomsbury children’s edition in one of the next posts, so come back soon to qualify for the giveaway!
and a copy of the article here.