Poor Harry Potter has had some pretty bad birthdays over the years, but which was the worst? And more importantly, which was the best?
Birthdays are supposed to be fun. They’re the one day of the year when you’re entitled to be selfish and everyone is supposed to treat you like royalty. Unfortunately for Harry Potter though, his birthdays seem to be a real hit or miss. Even the best of them are sprinkled with some sadness. Let’s take a look at how he’s celebrated his big day over the course of the series, starting with the worst, and working up to the least worst.
The Worst: 12 (‘Chamber of Secrets’)
Harry’s twelfth birthday is by far the worst. After enjoying his life for the first time at a new school the previous year, and finally making friends, Harry was understandably disappointed when his new friends, not only didn’t send him any birthday wishes, but didn’t write at all that summer. To make matters worse, the day of his birthday proved to be eventful for all the wrong reasons.
The Masons visited that evening, which meant Harry had to spend the day cleaning the entire house and garden. He was then in for an incredible surprise when Dobby the house-elf paid a visit and threatened Harry in an effort to prevent him from going back to Hogwarts. Making good on his promise, Dobby magically dropped pudding, framing Harry, getting him in deep trouble with the Dursleys and almost getting him expelled from Hogwarts.
15 (‘Order of the Phoenix’)
It’s no secret that Order of the Phoenix was not Harry’s finest hour. Or book. And his birthday was no different. Despite not actually seeing Harry’s birthday in this book, it isn’t hard to imagine that his ‘special’ day was no different from the rest of his summer.
It’s true Ron and Hermione sent him cards and chocolates, but the entire summer was marred by tragedy after Voldemort came back and murdered his friend. To make matters worse, few people believed Harry, and he spent most of the holiday months frustrated at the lack of news his friends were providing him.
16 (‘Half-Blood Prince’)
Half-Blood Prince depicted Harry’s first birthday party. He took a trip to the Burrow where the Weasleys got a celebration organized with a few of Harry’s closest friends. But of course this is Harry Potter, so the joy couldn’t last forever.
The mood was significantly brought down by all the depressing news mentioned. Lupin announced that Karkaroff was found dead, Bill reported that Florean Fortescue had been kidnapped by Death Eaters, and Arthur added that Ollivander had disappeared. Ever-wonderful Molly tried her best to steer conversation away from such dismal topics but alas, the men just couldn’t take the hint.
17 (‘Deathly Hallows’)
Harry’s second party was slightly better than the first. Unfortunately, it was a few days after the Battle of the Seven Potters, in which George lost an ear and Mad-Eye Moody and Hedwig died, so the celebration was tainted by tragedy, but the group certainly did their best to make the day special.
Since this was Harry’s coming of age birthday, the Weasleys and co. pulled out all the stops. Gifts were abound, including the traditional seventeenth birthday watch from Molly, and a passionate kiss from Ginny. Dinner was to be a big affair, with decorations and a giant snitch cake, but, naturally, it was interrupted before it could begin.
Rufus Scrimgeour’s arrival set everyone on edge, and after speaking with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, dinner was eaten quickly, celebration forgotten, so they could discuss their meeting with him.
14 (‘Goblet of Fire’)
Although we did not witness Harry’s fourteenth birthday in Goblet of Fire, it scores highly for the sole reason that it was so uneventful as to not be terrible.
We’re told in passing that he received cakes from Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, and Sirius. It was during this time that the Dursley’s decided the family was to go on a diet, so cakes were strictly forbidden. But what the Dursleys don’t know won’t hurt them, so Harry dutifully ate his fruits and veggies, knowing he’d be in for a (hidden) treat once he got to his room.
13 (‘Prisoner of Azkaban’)
The start of Harry’s birthday in Prisoner of Azkaban was a dull one. Seeing as he’d never had a birthday celebration before, his expectations are understandably low, and he spent the first hour studying, not realizing the clock had struck midnight on July 31. Promptly upon realizing, however, three owls swooped into his room bearing gifts. It was Harry’s first real birthday experience.
From Ron he received a sneakoscope and the wonderful news that the Weasleys won a lottery. Hermione surprised Harry by getting him a broomstick servicing kit, and Hagrid did as Hagrid does and gave Harry the Monster Book of Monsters. While Harry went to sleep happier than he’d ever been, the mood was swiftly brought down upon waking up.
The morning of Harry’s birthday coincided with Aunt Marge’s less than pleasant visit, and Vernon refused to sign Harry’s Hogsmeade permission form unless he behaved himself. Even with these downers though, there’s no taking away the absolute joy Harry felt the previous night of finally having a birthday.
The Best: 11 (‘Sorcerer’s Stone’)
Harry’s eleventh birthday in the first book is probably the most memorable. In an attempt to escape from the bombardment of Hogwarts letters, the Dursleys and Harry fled to a hut in the middle of the sea. Harry spent the night sleeping on the cold, dirty ground, but was quickly in for a life changing surprise.
Hagrid found the hut and busted his way in to personally give Harry his acceptance letter. It’s in this moment that Harry finally learned the truth about himself and his parents. Although this was the start to seven years of turmoil and anguish, it was also the start of real happiness in Harry’s life. With the darkness also came light, and when all was said and done, we saw that Harry’s life ultimately really did change for the better.