Its October 30th and my son’s birthday so i’m indulging in some throwback photos and memories. I read Harry Potter along with my 7 year old nephew and couldn’t wait to read them to Sean. When Sean was 5 and a bit I couldn’t wait any longer so I started to read them to him, a chapter every night. It took almost 2 years to read the entire 7 books and it is a memory I will always cherish. We read the book first then watched the movie so it was a natural step to have a Harry Potter themed party for Sean’s 6th birthday as it falls on the day before Halloween, one of my favourite times of year. It was such a success we had to follow it with a second party for his 7th birthday with the theme of the Triwizard Tournament. For a non Harry Potter head like my long suffering husband it was a confusing experience but he met the challenge head on and made Quidditch hoops, Platform 9 and 3 quarters signs and even took on the roles of Dumbledore and Hagrid despite needing prompting and many cues. What an experience those 2 parties were. My good friends all joined in enthusiastically and played their parts as some of the other teachers and the 20 or so children aged 6 and 7 were the perfect age to just go with the flow and believe…
The first part was making the invitations which I printed on cream paper then stained with a used tea bag for that old look.The kids RSVP’d with great enthusiasm and the parents all told me they were intending to stay for the party. Being lucky ( or mad enough ) to live in an old house it lent itself very well to the whole Hogwarts vibe. When the kids arrived they all given robes, wands and cauldrons before being sorted into their houses in Hogwarts. The robes were all Penny’s black X large men’s Tee shirts cut up the middle to form a cape and decorated with glitter and stars by my wonderful friend Miriam.
Padraic made the wands from wooden dowels and I glued and sewed coloured material and gold thread on the handles.The little bell that comes on the Lindt reindeer came in handy for the bottom of the wands and plumbing washers added a hint of gold. The black cauldrons are available in any of the pound shops.
The sorting ceremony was simple thanks to Padraic and his walkie talkies. Sean already had been given a gift of a black sorting hat so Padraic put one walkie talkie into the hat and as I placed it on the childs head saying his name clearly, Padraic spoke into the walkie talkie and the kids loved the talking hat. I made badges by downloading images from the internet and laminating them. That part was a lot of fun.
The first year we had potions classes in the dungeon. I looked in my cupboard and used ordinary household items to make the ingredients for our class. We had mustard seeds as spiders eyes, cloves as bats toenails,cooked spaghetti in red food colouring as bloodworms, smelly anchovies and some blanket weed from the pond as the famed gillyweed of the novels.. The key ingredients of white vinegar coloured pink and blue as liquid rose and liquid sky and bread soda were for the big experiment. The great thing about 6 year olds is they just go with the flow and once you get the big wow they are happy to move quickly onto the next thing. This of course could have a disaster only for our very own Professor Snape played brilliantly by our friend Kieran who was the most convincing and entirely entertaining Professor Snape with a Cork accent.He kept the kids spellbound with dire warnings and sharp rebukes if they weren’t paying attention and they loved it.I think snivelling first years was his best insult. The kids had a goblet each and mixed spoonfuls of the ingredients with warnings from Snape that this one would have your enemies on the toilet for a week etc (nothing like a bit of toilet humour for a crowd of 6 year olds) The highlight was after Snape had poured the vinegar into each goblet and spooned in the bread soda and each child had their own explosion. The smell did linger in the basement for a few days ,mostly the vinegar and the anchovies but it was worth it.
We had a simple outdoor class with Professor Sprout aka Collette who donned her robe and marched the kids to the barn for herbology. I had planted lavender that year and had saved all the purple pots, purple being a colour most associated with magic. They all planted a hyacinth bulb to bring home ( and hopefully encourage the magic of gardening)
We had a treasure hunt in the garden with the children following clues to a library in the kitchen. Weeks of glueing pages of old books together and cutting out a square to make a book safe were worth it as each kid got to pick a book to take home with a torch and beads inside. I had great fun with the titles and the prep for this one. I went to my Dad’s friend who owns that wonderful little book shop on the hill of Tara and asked him for old books that I could destroy without it playing on my conscience . He managed to dig out lots of old hardbacks which were perfect for the job and they went down a treat .
We had divination class in the sitting room with Rachael as Professor Trelawney. She read the kids tea leaves and told fortunes and this was a huge hit.
We had dementors chasing the kids, a dragon egg and spoon race, hunting for lost stars in the pond, quidditch on the lawn but the real highlight were the owls. I had been Oldbridge during the summer and met Brian from Newgrange Falconry. On a whim I called him to ask would he bring his owl to a party. With great enthusiasm and generosity he not only brought one but 3 owls and that became care of magical creatures class. Bartina the barn owl formally known as Barty until one day they found ” he’d ” laid some eggs and they had to change his name. Hence my new owl in the garden is named in tribute to that great day. The kids all got to hold Bartina and she flew onto Sean’s arm for a few tasty treats. They also brought a snowy owl and an American eagle owl but just to look at. We were warned to put our cat inside as although she thought she was stalking the owl , he in fact was lining her up as prey
When the party concluded with the feast and the prize giving we had lots of exhausted adults and beaming children. They ate trolls fingers ( sausages) cockroach clusters ( rice crispy buns) jelly snakes and of course cake. For Sean’s 6th birthday I cut up a chocolate tray cake into the shape of a H for Hogwarts and and covered 4 ice cream cones in melted chocolate.I cut out the shapes for the Hogwarts crests and used Sean’s toy model anglia as the car in the whomping willow. The 7th birthday cake was a rather collapsed looking Hogwarts express but with red icing and oreo cookies you can cover a multitude of sins.
I printed off some certificates and gave each child a folder with a Journal and a quill which were actually just copies with a printed cover glued on and a bic biro ( green of course) with a feather stuck at the end. I included a student card which they were allowed keep and the second year I found a template online for an origami marauders map.
The broomsticks were made from the long stems of elderberry bushes and lots of twigs and masking tape. They went home vowing to come back to Hogwarts the next year.I must have spent months getting ready and Padraic would mutter obsessed as he observed the madness but I don’t regret a minute of it. The memories we made together are so precious and recently some of the now teenagers got together to watch the DVD my brother made of the whole thing and revelled in watching their 6 year old selves. By year 3 I was out of ideas and we switched to a pirate party but that as the saying goes is another story…..