Thursday 10th Dec 2015
What is it that makes Harry Potter and Christmas go together so well?
Could it be that Hogwarts looks so beautiful sprinkled with the snow? Or maybe it’s the fact that Christmas gives us the feeling that Harry has found his true home at last.
Or maybe, like magic, it just can’t be explained.
As I enter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London for ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ I’m met with a gargantuan Christmas tree – the kind you’ve always dreamed of – towering above familiar photos of the Harry Potter cast.
But it’s the Great Hall that truly hits a festive nerve. Just as we remember from the films, it is transformed into a festive banquet hall, with the long tables now holding enough Christmas dinners to feed every distant Weasley cousin in the world (although the food is fake, so maybe that’s not a good idea).
Every couple of yards is a Christmas tree, niftily decorated with a miniature, mechanical witch, who happily circles the highest branch over and over. Even the Christmas crackers are personalised for each house. Not to mention the Christmas puddings that burst into flame as I walk past. Thankfully, the fire-proofing is in the pudding.
The rest of the Studio Tour keeps the holiday spirit going strong, with Christmas décor dotted all over the sets. This sprinkle of festive glitter has clearly cast a spell on the vistors. Self-confessed ‘Harry Potter nerd’ Caryl, visiting with her husband Aaron, are particularly enamoured.
‘Everything is just so overwhelming,’ Caryl says. ‘Coming from Australia, where it is really hot at Christmas, Harry Potter is just magical. The castle, the snow... Harry going from no family to having this massive Hogwarts family surrounding him – that’s just beautiful.’
If the flaming puddings and roaring fireplaces weren’t enough, the Goblet of Fire itself is let out of its casket for the occasion.
A group of young fans, Beth, Callum, Olivia and Toni-Lee, show me their singed pieces of paper bearing Harry Potter’s name, with a lot more enthusiasm than Harry had when his name came out of the Goblet.
As they go, Callum is keen to make it clear to me that he is a proud Slytherin, whereas the rest of his friends are Hufflepuffs. Proof that Christmas really does bring everyone together.
But, of course, snow is what truly dominates this particular experience – with guides on hand around the tour teaching passers-by how filmmakers transformed sets for festive scenes.
One of the experts, Katya, talks me through how Harry’s footprints appeared in the snow.
‘This is how it was actually made in the film. I have one hydraulic mechanism here, but in the movies, they’re connected one after the other – so the track is a lot longer when they actually do it on set.
‘The kids get so excited. Even just seeing the footprints go down, they ask, “Is that Harry walking through the snow?” I just love that reaction.’
I make my way round to one of the tour’s biggest moments, and it doesn’t take long to realise why. The tour’s main attraction, the Hogwarts castle model, has been given a magical makeover.
‘When kids skip round the corner, they just stop,’ smiles one of the tour guides, who is standing outside the door of the room where the famous scale model of Hogwarts castle is held – now encased in a glimmering white, especially for Christmas. Truly, it is a sight to behold.
Around me, couples are gazing at the model like the world’s biggest lava lamp. At the risk of ruining the moment, I step in to ask them my conundrum: what is it about Christmas and Harry Potter?
‘I think it’s the music,’ says Molly, visiting with her boyfriend Jack. ‘Harry Potter’s always had wonderful, Christmassy music throughout the films.’
I spot another pair of engrossed fans, Bernadette and Phil, basking in the castle's ethereal glow. ‘It gets me every time,’ admits Phil.
‘It's just so heartwarming, isn't it?’ adds Bernadette. ‘Because Harry had such a bad time of it at home, and then Christmas is all about finding family and getting together.’
After a quick spell in the gift shop, it’s time to go home, except for me – I have one more Christmas mission left: an invitation to Dinner in the Great Hall.
As night falls, the lobby is transformed into a grand dance floor, with canapés and glamorous guests adorned in tuxedos, gowns, and even Hogwarts robes.
I was lucky enough to enjoy this unique evening for Harry Potter fans – Christmas Dinner in the Great Hall has to be on many bucket lists. Dessert at platform nine and three-quarters; a cheeky Butterbeer in the back-lot café – it’s almost too much to take in.
Why are Christmas and Harry Potter so good together? Because both are magical and in both their hearts lie the same essential things: love, friends, family, and dancing with Death Eaters. Okay, maybe not that last one.