The Harry Potter Party

Last year, in the midst of Harry Potter fever (yes, we waited with the crowds for the midnight book release of the final Harry Potter book), Charlie asked for a Harry Potter-themed birthday party. This is a great theme for a party but can seem a bit overwhelming (after all, we are a bunch of Muggles). Naturally, I turned to the internet for inspiration and found that Harry Potter costume parties are hugely popular with an almost endless variety of possibilities. (This is such a cool theme, the adults were just as excited, if not more so, than the kids.)

Here's what we did for ours:

The invitations. Husband really outdid himself on the invitations. On the envelope he printed the Hogwarts crest, our address, and the words "Hogwarts Academy New World Campus." He also had a stamp with an owl graphic that said "Unable to Deliver by Owl. Muggle Delivery Attempt." On the inside, the invitation was written in Hogwarts-type language and signed by Minerva McGonagall. He printed the invitations on parchment paper and singed the edges with a lighter. Included was a one-way ticket he'd designed for the Hogwarts Express, London to Hogsmeade, Platform 9 3/4. The invitee was instructed to bring their ticket with them to the party (although we didn't collect them and no one actually brought theirs.)

We borrowed neighbor Eric's laminating machine and went to town. Charlie made decorations and signs for everything including a "Chamber of Secrets" sign that he put on the toilet tank; a "Leaky Cauldron" sign for the kitchen; and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign that we hung at the front door to welcome guests. (Our Chamber of Secrets and Leaky Cauldron signs remain in place to this day.)

Husband printed out crests for each of the four houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. We then laminated them, punched a hole in the top, and strung yarn through them. The back side of the crests included information about the house such as the head of the house, founder, location, and sorting hat description. When the guests arrived, the "Sorting Hat" sorted them into their houses. I'd bought a sorting hat online and put the envelopes inside containing their crests. For each guest, as they arrived, I read the following script:

There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.

The guest then reached in and pulled out an envelope containing their house assignment. Once the guest was sorted, they were then given their Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry entrance examination in which we asked them various questions (many of the answers were contained in the front room or they were about Charlie. Example: "How many keys with wings are there flying in the common room?" (Eric had some great old skeleton keys. We then made wings, taped them to the keys and hung them around the living room with fishing wire. This was a very cool decoration.) The guests had to complete their entrance exam before they could purchase their wand. One other sample question: "Charlie's dad is most like (a) Professor Snape (b) Lucius Malfoy (c) Professor Lockhart."

In addition to the entrance exam, the guests were given a list of required items to bring to Hogwarts School on their first day of classes:

1 spectre snake
1 juvenile acromantula spider
1 dancing (not singing) rat
1 chameleon frog
1 jeweled ring
1 charmed jewel
1 deck of magical playing cards
1 one approved magic wand.

These items were all available for purchase from our "store," The Magical Menagerie. Next to The Magical Menagerie was Honey Duke's Candy Store where the kids could purchase:

licorice wands (licorice)
candy candles (spiderman sticks)
fizzing whizzbees (warheads)
dancing rats (gummy rats), and so on.

The store items were arranged on a card table with their accompanying labels. After the guests completed their entrance exam, they were given plastic gold coins to purchase the store items.

The wands: In the back yard, we set up Ollivander's Fine Wands. The guests were able to choose and assemble their own wand. Husband and Eric purchased two different-sized dowels -- one for the handle and one for the wand -- from the hardware store that they then shaped on Eric's lathe. The guests picked out their wand and hilt and chose the stain they wanted for their wand, chose a charm to put in the hilt -- down of Phoenix feather, Unicorn Maine Coarse Hair, or Dragon Heartstring (feathers, red and white dental floss), then used their Elvin's wand glue to glue the hilt to the wand, and waxed their wand with their "Serf's Up" wand wax. Husband printed out individual sheets with wand assembly instructions and also a sheet of spells and incantations.

Activities: Guess the Bertie Botts Beans flavor. We purchased Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (a collection of the really bad flavors) and gave each kid the same assortment of beans. They then had to taste test each bean and write down the flavor. This was particularly challenging. (We had a few very brave adults participate. I especially disliked the sardine beans.) One of the kids wrote "booger" for every answer. (Yes, there is a booger flavor.)

Pin the tail on the Hippogriff. Charlie (big Buckbeak fan) drew a Hippogriff which my sister Kathy enlarged and mounted on foam board, placed in a frame, and made specially-numbered Hippogriff tails for a rousing game of pin the tail on the Hippogriff. (The kids were blindfolded, of course.)

Guess the beans in the jar. I purchased a large bag of Jelly Belly beans, put them in a jar, and we had the guests guess the number of beans in the jar. The winner took home the jar of beans.

Talented neighbor Violet made an amazing Quidditch cake with specially-ordered cake toppers depicting Harry on his Nimbus 2000. (She ordered the cake toppers online.)

The possibilities for a Harry Potter-themed birthday party are almost endless, and this theme would work just great for Halloween parties too. It was so much fun, the guests wanted to do it again. I saved almost everything just in case. Who knows, maybe we'll have a Hogwarts Christmas party one day. Or maybe New Year's?