Do you remember the first time you saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? I do. I was eight years old, I sat in the front row of the theater, and I ate all my Junior Mints during the previews. I’m not exaggerating when I say the movie blew my Golden Snitch-patterned socks clean off. Hogwarts, which had previously existed only in my head, suddenly felt so real I could almost taste the Chocolate Frogs and pumpkin juice. Watching the wizarding world come to life before my very eyes was better than Christmas morning, Halloween, and my birthday all rolled into one, and I was convinced that I would never in my life have as much fun as I did that day in the theater with my Gryffindor scarf and my empty box of Junior Mints.
But that was before I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I was older then, yet still I donned my scarf, bought a wand, and ate Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans with unbridled abandon. Again, the world came alive for me in a way I hadn’t thought possible, and again, I figured this was it; this was the purest form of joy I would ever know; I would never feel such childlike wonder again.
Or so I thought. But then I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I went to the midnight showing of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And I treated myself to a Hogwarts-themed advent calendar that made each December day feel special at the end of a long, exhausting year. The point is that Harry Potter springs eternal, rewarding fans with an ever-evolving abundance of ways to engage with the series and recapture the magic.
As we get older, it certainly feels as if that childlike excitement exists in diminishing returns. Holidays become stressful rather than joyous, there’s never time to nap, and you start to feel guilty about eating sugar. But every time there’s something new happening in the world of Harry Potter, it’s a reminder that we still have that capacity for wide-eyed wonder—that we can, however briefly, forgo the grueling rigors of adult life in favor of the carefree refuge of childhood. (I don’t know about you, but every time I hear “Hedwig’s Theme,” I’m instantly nine years old again.)
Nowadays, there are so many ways to enjoy this thing we love. Some of us collect Harry Potter coloring books and build Harry Potter-themed puzzles and LEGO sets. Still others like to reread the books every autumn, to feel as if we too are boarding the Hogwarts Express on September first.
Most recently, there’s the new Harry Potter Wizarding World Gold Membership, an annual subscription that plugs fans directly into the Potterverse like never before, giving them priority access to insider news and exclusives, ebooks of all 7 novels in the series, and a personalized Keys & Curios journal specific to their Hogwarts house and a collectible pin badge that arrive by Muggle mail! Not to mention, some serious Potterhead bona fides. (Intrigued? More info can be found here).
That there is such a myriad of ways to experience Harry Potter demonstrates the franchise’s timeless yet versatile nature, even as it continues to grow and change. Harry Potter means so many different things to so many different people, and each fresh addition provides a gateway for new legions of fans to enter into this world.
For some, the books were their foothold into the fandom. For others, it was the movies. For generations still to come, it might be Fantastic Beasts or the illustrated editions by Jim Kay or the Netflix original series that doesn’t yet exist but totally should. Who’s to say? Watching Harry Potter come to life brings me no shortage of joy, but there’s a greater joy still to be had, and it’s this: the knowledge that new waves of kids and adults alike will one day get to experience the wizarding world, mold it to their lives, and make it their own.
Because no matter how you choose to love Harry Potter or how you came to discover it, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.