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Why the Philosopher’s Stone Sorting Ceremony was basically the best one

The Sorting Ceremony was always a special occasion, but obviously the first one was iconic.

The Sorting Ceremony
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

It’s way more ‘fun’ to get to the ceremony as a first year

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Whoever said, ‘It’s the journey, not the destination’ didn’t consider the first years’ trip to Hogwarts. Sure, Harry enjoyed the Hogwarts Express part; friendships were formed, runaway toads were recaptured and many, many sweets were eaten. But it also involves a soggy boat trip to the school across the Great Lake, chaperoned by Hagrid – a special treat reserved strictly for first years.

The Sorting Hat was on form

Sorting Hat Illustration with grey background
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

While the Sorting Hat composed a new song every year, the one at Harry’s Sorting was a real crowd-pleaser, earning a well-deserved round of applause from the Great Hall. Hat-isfaction.

‘Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Future Sorting Hat songs would take a more sombre tone, warning of dangerous times that lay ahead, even lamenting the fact that the students had to be separated at all. But back then, this jolly ditty was the perfect introduction to the four houses and managed to ‘cap it off’ in terms of hat-related humour. It was a simpler time.

It revealed a lot about the characters

Draco being sorted into Slytherin
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry’s first Sorting Ceremony revealed more about certain students than just their houses. Remember how cocky Draco ‘swaggered’ to the front? We knew right then he belonged in Slytherin. Or how about the moment Neville ran off to the table still wearing the hat? Nervous and awkward as he was, Neville was put in Gryffindor for a reason and we couldn’t wait for him to show his true colours.

The banquet banter also gave us a bit of insight into the characters’ families. Seamus Finnigan told us about his ‘half-and-half’ parentage while Neville recounted his Great Uncle Algie’s attempts to ‘force’ magic out of him – for the record, pushing a small child off Blackpool pier is not cool. All the while, Hermione was just looking forward to her lessons. Because that’s Hermione for you.

Harry made a big decision very early on

A wise old wizard once said that our choices show who we really are, not just our abilities. Dumbledore was, of course, talking about Harry’s sorting.

Having been raised by Muggles, Harry didn’t arrive knowing much about the houses. All he’d really heard was that Hufflepuff had a reputation as ‘a lot o’ duffers’ (Newt Scamander would beg to differ) and that Slytherin house had turned out some Dark wizards, including Lord Voldemort. When it was Harry’s turn to be sorted, he would have been happy to belong in any house… except one.

‘Not Slytherin, eh?’ said the small voice. ‘Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well, if you’re sure – better be GRYFFINDOR!’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Cue the biggest cheer of the whole ceremony. Sorry, Slytherins!

Dumbledore’s speech was short and sweet

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Ever get put off by boring speeches at formal occasions, especially when you’re waiting to be fed? Don’t worry, Professor Dumbledore wouldn’t do a thing like that. While he made some important points later that evening, mostly about not getting killed at school, his pre-feast introduction was brief, bizarre and brilliant.

‘Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!
‘Thank you!’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Food, glorious food

While Hogwarts had no shortage of banquets (we’re surprised the last book wasn’t Harry Potter and the Elasticated Waistband), the first feast in Philosopher’s Stone was presented in mouthwatering detail. We got to share the joy with Harry, who’d spent his life being starved for more than attention, at having so many wonderful dishes put in front of him.

He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup and, for some strange reason, mint humbugs.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

We were so hungry we nearly ate our books.

The much-missed ‘Hoggy Warty Hogwarts’ song

What better way to round off a great evening than with musical chaos? As the rest of the teachers maintained ‘fixed’ smiles, Professor Dumbledore conducted the school in a rousing anthem, with everyone singing their tune of choice. We can only imagine the din.

‘Ah, music,’ he said, wiping his eyes. ‘A magic beyond all we do here!’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

So why didn’t we get a rendition of ‘Hoggy Warty Hogwarts’ at every feast? Apparently the headmaster only called for this song when he felt ‘particularly buoyant’, so he must have been on top form that evening. Another reason why this Sorting Ceremony was the best.