Between one highly-polished event and one with more of a local touch, England’s Christmas-loving Harry Potter fans have much to look forward to this holiday season.
From 16 November to 26 January 2020, the halls of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London are going to get decked, as Hogwarts in the Snow returns. Some of the franchise’s best-known sets will get the holiday treatment. The Great Hall will be lined with Christmas trees and festooned with shimmering silver and sparkling snow, dining tables groaning—in true Hogwarts fashion—with prop versions of roast turkeys, hams, and Christmas puddings nestled in real fire. The castle model will receive a dusting of snow as well (actually a mix of granulated paper and salt, sifted onto the set by hand), and the Gryffindor common room and the boys’ dormitory will be decorated with original props from the movies, including Christmas cards that the cast made during production.
Other touches include fireplaces lit with special effects flames and several kinds of film-making snow that visitors can touch and feel to note the differences. But the marquee event is dinner in the Great Hall, held over three nights in early December. From 9 to 11 December, fans with the means will be treated to pre-dinner drinks and canapes, followed by a two-course Christmas feast in the Great Hall itself and dessert on Platform 9 3⁄4, in the shadow of the original Hogwarts Express locomotive.
Tickets must be prebooked and go on sale on 17 September for £240 (US$298), but the price includes all extras and allows the holder to do some poking around on the studio tour after-hours.
Meanwhille, up in North Yorkshire, wannabe wizards can register for a chance to win an overnight in Hagrid’s hut for just £1 per entry. The Ground Keeper’s Cottage Competition will award one lucky winner a seven-night stay for up to four adults and two children, from 22 to 29 December. The grand prize includes a “magical” Christmas hamper, a meet and greet with a snowy owl Hedwig stand-in and a Harry Potter lookalike, the latter of whom will put on a magic show while you sip your afternoon tea.
Launched in April, the accommodations normally go for £295 (US$376) per night, but owner and creator Carol Cavendish wanted to give everyone the opportunity to have the cottage experience, regardless of their bank balance. “With the stress of the economic climate and Brexit, along with all of life’s worries, we all need to get away,” she says. “We all need magic in our lives to help us find happiness, to help us stay healthy mentally and physically. Some people may not be able to afford a magical holiday or a holiday at all. We wanted to offer a chance to all people to enjoy a very happy and special time here at Christmas.”
Though it’s not officially affiliated with the franchise, Carol says the company is donating a portion of the proceeds to J.K. Rowling’s charity, Lumos, which links children in orphanages with new families or facilitates a return to their families of origin. She was an orphan herself, she notes, and feels a strong connection to the cause.
As for the cottage itself, the main bedroom features bunks and a full bed, while the cosy living room features a fireplace and overstuffed furniture. But the bathroom is Carol’s favourite part. “I designed it around the Ministry of Magic,” she says. “In the films, you don't get to see Hagrid’s bathroom—not sure we would want to!” The professional designer took the circular space and added a double-ended copper bath, shiny, deep-green metro tiles, an old Scottish whisky barrel sink, and a stained glass window for a glamorous look.
The second-prize winner will receive a three-night stay minus the bells and whistles, and third prize is two nights in another company property called the Shire House, a replica of Bilbo Baggins’s hobbit house from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If your heart is set on Hagrid’s hut, though, you’ll want to book well in advance—six months to a year out is recommended.