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A Potter Party Family Night

I’ve been looking forward to Harry Potter Movie Night pretty much since I gave birth to a child ten years ago. I’ve read a lot of books in my life and can’t tell you where I was for most of them, but the Potter books? I think everyone remembers where they were for those–in my case, going to college, living with my grandparents, studying Wordsworth and Keats by day and J.K. Rowling by night. I drove two hours home on weekends to work in the hospital blood lab, a job that required me to man the phones and take tubes of blood sent from patient floors to their respective specialty rooms to be spun and analyzed. It was quiet on weekends, so Harry Potter came with me, and I vividly remember sitting hunched over the desk in my lab coat, turning page after page, stopping only to answer a phone or input a blood test when it arrived on the dumb waiter–sometimes unnoticed during a particularly harrowing event in the book.

Phlebotomist: “Ah, Kelle. You gonna get that? The dumb waiter alarm is going off.”

Me: “Would you shut up? Syrius Black just died! Have some respect! Jesus.”

It was amazing how quickly eight hour work days sped by when Harry Potter was with me. The elaborate imagination and detailed descriptions of that magical world transformed me, and I’ve waited over fifteen years to pass that on. And then came Lainey: “Dear God, please keep this baby healthy…and help her to love Harry Potter. Amen.”

Here’s the thing. We attempted to read the books together earlier this year, and even with the help of the Audible narrator’s British accent, Lainey was–oh, this is hard. She was….wait for it. She was like, “Meh.”


I repeat, I introduced my kid to Harry Potter, and I GOT APATHY.

Aw, hell naw. We’re doing this again. THIS TIME WITH FEELING.

We’re goin’ straight for the jugular. Jump to the movie. Add bells and whistles. Which brings me to our fall bucket list and that little unchecked box next to “Watch Harry Potter with Candles, Butterbeer and Bertie Bott’s Beans.” We took care of it this past weekend.

So here’s how we’re going to do this: I will bring this movie to life. I will make you feel the magic. I will lure you with Honeyduke’s candy and hook you with butterbeer.

Truth is, I love family nights and movies and end-of-the-year holidays, and this little party is less about forcing my kids to love Harry Potter and more about celebrating October in a fun, special way. And before I show you a peek at our little Potter party, let me also tell you that when you see stuff like this–fun parties for kids or holiday crafts and celebrations, for example–on my site or in my social media feeds, this isn’t about attempting to be a good mom. I don’t associate being a good mom with celebrations and details and parties. But I do associate being a good mom with doing things that make me happy and inviting my kids to witness my happiness and be part of it. This is more about me than my kids. Because I like creating things and celebrating parties and making space for the 10-year-old girl inside who never died. It makes me happy. And I think the best way to be a good mom is to do things that make you happy. For you, that might be Crossfit or home decorating or cooking or tending to your garden. For me, it’s planning little celebrations and making them come to life. I loved this little family night so much, and more than wanting my kids to remember any of the details I planned, I hope they recall someday, “Remember that Harry Potter party we did when we were little? Mom was so happy. She was doing what she loved.”

And it was simpler than it sounds. The family activity planned was simply to watch Harry Potter together as a family on a Saturday night. What I added? Four things:

1. Floating Candles. I hung twelve “floating candles” in the air with fish line. I didn’t get as elaborate as this D.I.Y., but I followed a similar method, tucking flameless flickering tea lights into cardstock paper that I rolled around the tea light and taped in place. I then taped two strands of fishing line on the candle and strung them to the ceiling. It took me 30 minutes to make and hang twelve of them.

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2. We made a candy bar to model the Honeyduke’s shop in the book.

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I poured melted Wilton chocolate melts in this frog mold for the chocolate frogs, and for the fizzing whizzbies, I poured chocolate melts into this bee mold but layered pop rocks in the middle. The fizzing whizzbies were definitely the favorite.

3. We made butterbeer.

I looked at several recipes, but a lot of them were just too rich (butterscotch PLUS brown sugar PLUS whipping cream PLUS condensed milk PLUS cream soda–whoa). Ours was pretty simple–I mixed vanilla ice cream with a tiny bit of milk and butterscotch topping in the blender. I poured cold cream soda in a frosted glass leaving room at the top for our butterscotch “foam” and then spooned the ice cream mixture over top. For the adults, we added some rum and butterscotch Shnapps. Totally delicious.

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4. We dressed the part. 

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I dug up some witch hats from last year’s Halloween party, found Harry Potter glasses and drew Harry’s forehead scar with eye liner. Dash dug up a cape from the dress up basket.

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And I love that just when I wonder, “Is Lainey growing out of this? Am I too extra for her?,” she comes out of her room with a wad of black pipe cleaners and hands them to my dad. “Poppa, can you turn these into a witch hat for Latte to wear?” because she believes, like I do, that my dad can make anything. Later, when Lainey’s friend arrived for a sleepover, she came to me and asked if I could make a Harry Potter scar on her too and if we had another witch hat. Be still my heart, I thought you’d never ask.

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And that’s it. That’s all you need to make it special. Candy, candles, a good drink and a hat. The rest, as they say, was…magic.

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We’ve rekindled a love for Harry Potter, and I couldn’t be happier about it. While Nella and Dash eventually fell asleep, Lainey was all in. And for at least a good hour, it was everyone…huddled together by candlelight, sipping butterbeer, entranced by the magic of Hogwarts…making one special memory.

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Honeyduke’s Intermission:

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And Brett got to bust out his new popcorn maker, so he’s happy.

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This scene at the end of the night:

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Top night. I love these last months of the year and the little celebrations they hold.

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Leave a Comment
  1. I’m so doing this next year. I have five kiddos, and the oldest three have read the books multiple times. My fourth is finishing up the audio of the second book right now (she LOVES audiobooks, and fitting in with her big sibs.) We have a full rest of the month with vacation, but this will be magical next year.

    Where do I find a candelabra on the cheap??

    • I got mine at Homegoods last year. But Target has some cool black ones in their Halloween decor section right now.

  2. I love all of this. Thank you so much for the “it is not about me being a good mom” part… you have no idea how much that helps me. (I also love being extra. There are some people in my life who get annoyed by that… the idea that I could do this kind of stuff for just my sweet family is game changing.)

  3. Thanks for the butter beer tip. We made a few recipes from the link you posted and also found they were WAY too rich. With the grown up version, did you put rum and schnapps in the same glass??? PS. I still cry when Snape dies, even though I’ve read/seen it many a time 😢

  4. Wait,we need to see photos of the hat your dad made for the dog!!

    Loved the pics.

  5. Totally geeking out over here! I bought the entire Harry Potter movie collection for my kids last Christmas, and we may or may not have had a few (ahem 8) marathons since then. I used my teacher scholastic points to get the entire book set even though most of my 3rd graders will probably never be able to read past the 2nd book. Definitely have had this idea to have a Harry Potter movie night with the bells and whistles, and this just solidifies my decision to do so. :) So fun!

  6. Jaime Burke says:

    This is where we were at with my 8 year old daughter – My husband and I were so pumped and she was all tween “meh” as well. It was like popping a balloon! Lol! You inspired us to do a fun movie night as well and the spark is there – it worked! – we started reading book 1 last night.

  7. Jacki Hayes says:

    Right before the last two movies came out, we had a Harry Potter movie marathon over a weekend. I made buttons of each of the houses, we had a sorting, wore capes dug up from Halloween costumes, and took Hogwarts classes between movies (I made up “textbooks” for each of us and had activities for five classes). We made polyjuice potion and butterbeer. It is still one of my favorite memories. It went over so well, my son insisted that we replicate it for his birthday party.

  8. LoRiangela says:

    I was blessed to read all the Harry Potter books aloud (twice!) as they were published. Both my kids loved the boooks and the movies as they were about Harry’s age. Now I’m listening to them on audible and to “Harry Potter As Sacre Text” podcast. So amazing!
    Planning a Harry Potter trip to London with my daughter when she graduates from her Bachelor of Education

  9. Laura Ortiz says:

    This is wonderful! I love Harry Potter, we had once a HP marathon over a weekend but didn’t do anything special for it. So, inspired by your idea, I’ll do another marathon with a few thing Harry Potter as well.
    Thank you Kelle!

  10. I so so love this!!! We started listening to the books as a family this year and my daughter is ALL IN! Once she found out there was a quiz you could take to be sorted she was full-on ready to go to Hogwarts. On Harry’s birthday this summer we threw together a special dinner with some printed out decorations and a cake with green writing just like in the book. It wasn’t super fancy, but my kids loved it and have already asked to do it next year. I agree that throwing these things together does not make anyone super mom, it’s just where I choose to put my energy. My kids rarely have clean faces and I don’t pack lunches, so clearly I don’t have it all together 😂

  11. Have you seen the illustrated versions of Harry Potter? Only the first 3 are available (3rd one just came out) but they are awesome and might help keep her interest.

    • The illustrated versions were the game changer for my 9 year old – we read them together. They are awesome! The movie was necessary to get my 10 year to get interested.

    • I was going to suggest the same! My 9 year old loved the illustrated version, we have been ordering them as they come out! So she was 7 when the first book came out and my husband read it with her first and then she re-read it herself a few times! She read the second book by herself!
      Super awesome party!!!!

  12. I had the same … problem when I tried to introduce Harry Potter to my daughter. She LOVED the films, was completely meh about the books. But I waited. Patiently. And this year when she turned 13 I tried again. And you know what? She couldn’t put them down. Absolutely loves them, so much, that she tried to steal my copies. HA! Maybe try again in a few years. :)

  13. Lainy’s face is wonderful! I could see the magic happening x

  14. jen gordon says:

    Good Golly Molly! I smiled through this entire post. LOVED it!

  15. I saw the title of this post and immediately had all. the. feels. I am an unapologetic Potter nerd- read all the books multiple times, listened to the audio books with my kids (Jim Dale’s voices!), and watched the movies over and over. My 3rd grader has found his love for the Potter-verse and is going as Harry for Halloween this year. This makes my geeky heart soooo happy!

  16. I love this bonding. I also love the being a good mom is doing what you love and having your kids be a part of it.

  17. Kelle, I absolutely love this!! My oldest is 11 and is a huge Harry Potter fan. Two years ago, I forced her to read the first book and she fell in love. She then speed through the rest of the books in record time. I had never read them but I knew they were magical. So I started reading them too. Since she has already seen the movies a bunch of times and has re-read all the books a couple times, I’m planning on doing this for Halloween. We have family over to trick or treat with us so I think this will be a great way to get her younger sister and brother along with her little cousins excited about Harry Potter. Thanks so much for sharing for fun family night! Plus thank you for showing me how to have a wonderful memory making experience without thinking that I need to spend tons of hours preparing it.

  18. I love this idea! I too tried to read the books with my daughter when she was 8…she was not impressed. So we moved on to the movies and she’s watched the first 4. But now, even at age 9, she’s a little scared to watch any further. I keep hoping that she’ll come around! But I’m totally gonna do the floating candles and butterbeer while we re-watch Movie 1 later this month.

  19. How fun – those floating candles are awesome!

  20. Rebekka Reynolds says:

    I totally relate to this post!!! I am a mom to 4. The older 3 would never read it with me and now my baby who is 8 has no choice. I am forcing her to love Harry Potter with me. She is my last shot at this and I am getting “interest” which is more than the others produced. I’m totally having a Harry Potter movie night soon. We are almost done with the first book!! Maybe Dash or Nella will develop a love for it through your fun party!

  21. This is such a fun idea!! One day I decided we should watch the first movie (I hadn’t watched them since my 4 year old was born). I was so excited when we started watching them… until my daughter says “this is the one where the cat turns into a lady”. I’m like WTF??!! “How do you know that?!” and she told me she watched it with my brother earlier that week. I’m still looking forward to reading the books together when we’re older and I set down the rule with my family that they can’t watch anything past the 3rd movie with her so that she can read about it first.
    For now, we’ll have to do a Harry Potter themed movie night.

  22. This whole post just sent my heart a flutter and I could completely resonate with all you were saying. I was a preschool teacher for 10 years before I became a stay at home mom. Along with our regular preschool curriculum I dove head first into all things we could celebrate; traditional and the ones no one even knew existed….National Fountain Pen day…yes, it’s real! And once I had my first son there was no holding back, its like I could take it up several notches, most likely bordering on crazy lady. He was only 3 months old on his first Halloween and he slept through most of it but we celebrated it like he would remember it forever.
    Our boys are now teenagers and I still celebrate and decorate like I did in their younger years. It makes me happy which in turn makes me a better Mom, even if I am really the only one who cares about the adorable twig pumpkins I got for the mantel. Family traditions are so important and as we navigate the new territory of the teen years I am finding that these reminders of childhood make the “teen aghast” times a little easier on us all. And interestingly enough, our annual Christmas cookie decorating day seems to still fill my kitchen, but now with big gangling teenagers. These are the same kids who over the years have participated in this party all the way back to their preschool years. Its an open door event now, come if you wish. And those that do come year after year seem to find peace in returning to the magic of the holidays in a room filled with twinkle lights, Christmas tunes, trays of sugar cookies, sprinkles & peppermint icing. I can only hope these memories will forever hold a spot in their hearts and perhaps one day become a tradition with their own kids.

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