One of the Harry Potter series’ most beloved settings has always been mysteriously absent from the Wizarding World theme parks, but this year that has finally changed.

“Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” kicks off Saturday, November 18 and is a thorough takeover of Universal Orlando’s Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. As you walk into either of the two lands you’ll be immediately transported into a Christmas wonderland. Most stores are decked out in unique Christmas decorations — Universal says the idea was to create decor that each store owner would create themselves. In other words, each store’s decorations blends in with their theme.

As you can see in the photos below, this isn’t a minor holiday overlay. The special event runs through January 6, and if you — a Harry Potter fan — are looking to experience some never-before-seen holiday joy this year, book your trip NOW.

? Christmas at Hogsmeade ?

? Christmas in Diagon Alley ?

Live entertainment

There are three major new shows hitting the Wizarding World now through January 6. In Hogsmeade, Hogwarts Castle lights up every 20 minutes or so with a new projection show, “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts”. It’s a marvelous, high-tech, eight-minute celebration filled with references to holidays in the Harry Potter series (like the Yule Ball, the Great Hall’s iconic Christmas tree, and the Hogwarts ghosts).

Familiar characters do make appearances on the castle during the Yule Ball scene in an origami style. Universal says they were inspired by the art in Deathly Hallows, Part 1’s “Tale of the Three Brothers” scene.

The projections that light up the school are simply extraordinary. It’s one of those things that you can’t believe you’re seeing with your own eyes. Adding to the epic-ness are Christmas lights that are scattered on dozens of trees surrounding the castle. These lights are sync’d up with the show, creating an immersive experience that offers 360 degrees of delight. Universal says they’ve been building the show for a year and a half.

Just down the cobblestones you’ll find new songs being performed by the Hogwarts School Choir. The quartet and their pair of frogs perform three new songs: “The Most Magical Yule Ball of All,” “I Cast a Spell on Father Christmas,” and a Muggle classic, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

While the songs are interesting to watch since they’re being performed a cappella, more invigorating live entertainment is happening over at Diagon Alley. This land is also decked out in Christmas cheer, and Celestine Warbeck and the Banshees are a joy to watch. Like the Hogwarts Choir, Celestine has several new songs up her red sleeves: “Holiday Spell,” “Accio Christmas,” “My Baby Gave Me A Hippogriff For Christmas,” and “A Witch and Wizard’s Wintry Wondrous Land”.

The two standout songs from Celestine are “Accio Christmas” and “My Baby Gave Me A Hippogriff For Christmas.” The songs were written by Universal and approved by J.K. Rowling’s team, and according to theme park officials they’re considered canon. These songs are so good, in fact, that I think they should be professionally recorded and released. I know Harry Potter fans would put these into rotation with the Muggle Christmas Classics.

Accompanying the new holiday traditions are some merchandise and food. For starters, several stores are selling a variety of House-themed stockings, wreath hangers, and ornaments. The merchandise appears to be exclusive to the theme parks and are must-buys if you’re here during the holidays.

A winter favorite also returns this year: Hot Butterbeer. There’s always a big debate over which Butterbeer is best — hot, frozen, or cold — but most agree that a Hot Butterbeer is a perfect treat on a cool evening. What’s it taste like? Imagine Hot Chocolate, but Butterbeer’d. A Christmas Feast and Christmas Pudding are also available at The Leaky Cauldron and The Hog’s Head.

Christmas is referenced in every one of the Harry Potter books. Fans love reading about the Wizarding World during the holidays because it reminds them of the excitement of Christmas as a child, when the holiday felt more magical. Now, fans can experience a new version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during one of the best times of year. Happy Christmas, Harry!

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