July 31 might just be the most magical day of the month thanks to Harry Potter’s birthday. At BYU, Potter’s July birthday often inspires a resurgence of fandom and renewed appreciation for J.K. Rowling’s literary creation.
Rowling is also set to release her newest addition to the Harry Potter world, a stage play titled “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” on July 31. The timely release of this new work will likely provide even more reason for Potter fans to celebrate.
Many BYU students developed an interest in the Potter universe by reading the books or watching the movies in their youth. Brooklyn Davison said she’s been hooked since first reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the second grade. Davison, a senior at BYU, related the characters in the books to people in her life.
“I first related with the Weasley Family and how close they were (to each other),” Davison said. “It reminded me of my own family.”
Davison’s appreciation for the Potter series is not so unique at BYU. In fact, Davison uses Harry Potter as a conversation starter with other students.
“I can use Harry Potter to start a conversation with probably 90 to 95 percent of people on campus,” Davison said. “It always gives us something to talk about.”
Fellow BYU student Sam McConnell and his wife Carlie McConnell also appreciate Rowling’s creative plots and characters. Carlie McConnell says she inserts herself into the story to add interest and personalize the Harry Potter experience.
“When you immerse yourself into a fantasy culture you can kind of make the characters your own, in a way,” Carlie McConnell said. “You imagine them to be however you want or even put some of your own qualities into the characters.”
The Harry Potter books provide life lessons and entertaining real-world application to readers, according to Carlie McConnell. She explained she has been able to identify lessons about sacrifice, friendship and even the gospel in the books.
“I served (an LDS mission) in Japan, Fukuoka. The Japanese people loved Harry Potter and I could always strike up conversations using Harry Potter,” Carlie McConnell said. “I compared Satan to Voldemort a few times.”
Sam McConnell wasn’t always the Potter fan he is today. After he and his wife’s first date, he knew he’d need to study up on his Potter facts.
“Before I met Carlie, I had a general idea of the story, but not much more than that,” Sam McConnell said. “After a few months I became a huge fan.”
Management and staff at The Wall, a popular on-campus restaurant, also contribute to the Harry Potter culture at BYU. The Wall will host its third Annual Harry Potter party the week of July 31. The Wall’s student manger Laurel Larsen explained why this year’s birthday celebration will be a week-long event.
“This is one way we are trying to reach out to students across campus who might not be able to come to the event itself,” Larsen said.
The festivities kick off with a Horcrux scavenger hunt on Monday, Larsen said. Harry Potter-themed karaoke takes place on Thursday, followed by a magic show performed by the Abracadabra magic club on Friday. A Harry Potter birthday celebration complete with a costume contest will take place on Saturday.
Larsen said the turnout for last year’s Harry Potter party exceeded 600 people.
“We know that a large portion of the BYU population loves Harry Potter, or they have a friend who does, and it’s a great way to bring a lot of people together who have the same interests,” Larsen said. “It’s really fun to give them an environment they can immerse themselves into.”
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It looks as if BYU students will continue to have a passion for Harry Potter for a long time to come. Davison gave an on-theme response when asked how long Harry Potter would be relevant at BYU.
“Always,” Davison said.