When a wizard turns 17...
November 17, 2012 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Can any Harry Potter experts tell me more about when a wizard turns 17 and receives a watch?

My daughter is a Harry Potter fanatic. I've never read the books or seen the movies. She turns 17 next week, and she recently made a point of explaining to me how a wizard receives a special watch on their 17th birthday. So I bought her a fancy Doctor Who watch (her other love).

Is there anything special about the presentation of this watch that I can replicate? Is it wrapped in a particular way? Is there any kind of ceremony associated with receiving it? I'd like to do something special for her related to this whole wizard-turns-17 thing, but I don't have the time to read the whole series to understand it. And googling just turns up examples of Harry Potter watches.

So what can I do to make it seem as real as possible for her? She's super into fantasy-based anything, and we (her mom and dad, the math geeks) aren't, and often [gently] tease her about living in Fantasyland. So she'd be thrilled if we take this all very seriously this one time.
posted by SuperSquirrel to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
All that I can find on the matter is:


From Bk7:
Molly Weasley: "Arthur told me to wish you a happy seventeenth, Harry. He had to leave early for work, but he'll be back for dinner. That's our present on top... It's traditional to give a wizard a watch when he comes of age..."

Molly replaced the watch that Harry lost during Bk4's Triwizard Tournament. There are no other instances of watches being given on 17th birthdays, or otherwise, in the series.

But I think your daughter would be equally stoked to receive a Time Turner, which is not quite a watch, but is a time-travel devices that does play a larger role in the books. See this online store and similar.
posted by wintersonata9 at 12:28 PM on November 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

I've read the books (more than once) and couldn't actually recall anything about witches and wizards receiving watches on their 17th birthdays, but after a little research, I found out that Harry was, in fact, given a watch by his friend Ron's parents (Molly and Arthur) on his 17th birthday, with Ron's mother stating:

Molly: "Arthur told me to wish you a happy seventeenth, Harry. He had to leave early for work, but he'll be back for dinner. That's our present on top... It's traditional to give a wizard a watch when he comes of age..."

As explanation:
Harry... received a variety of presents, including a watch from Mrs. Weasley that had once belonged to her late brother Fabian Prewett, which he hugged her in thanks for.

As I don't even remember this occurring in the book, I can't speak to any particular ceremony involved, however (I feel like I would have remembered this if the gift-giving was more elaborate than simply handing it over, though!).

I don't know what sort of watch you bought your daughter, but pocket watches are a thing in the Harry Potter universe.
posted by Defying Gravity at 12:30 PM on November 17, 2012

Mm, on second thought, reviews of the "Noble Collection" (movie-official) Time Turner say that it's poorly made and falls apart easily. If you decide to go this route I'd go with a handmade one from the craft site Etsy (example).

I'm not 17 anymore, but I still adore Harry Potter and personally I'd love to receive one of these as a gift. :)
posted by wintersonata9 at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ron also receives a (new) watch on his 17th birthday (which is why the Weasleys apologise that they are not able to give Harry a new one as well but instead one that had been Molly's brother's), but it's just in a pile of his other presents, there's no special ceremony to the watch.

You can try to replicate Harry's birthday party? (I'd avoid Ron's, as he gets poisoned.) The HP wiki says there are purple lanterns with 17 and purple and gold streamers; I remembered only that he had a golden-snitch shaped cake.
posted by jeather at 12:48 PM on November 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

Book 7 does also mention that the watch given to harry was dented on one side, which could maybe be carefully arranged with a hammer.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2012

I think it doesn't have to be a watch necessarily, it could be a themed necklace or bracelet too. Something she could wear for a long time that might not immediately invoke Harry Potter to the uninitiated. How about this?
posted by cabingirl at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since there appears to not be a ceremony attached in the books, I'd go for the casual approach that is mentioned in the boks, along with a note (suitably corny) about how your daughter is your wizard. Or feel free to make up your own ceremony, noting that this is one thing the books got. Wrong and this is how it's done.
posted by maxwelton at 1:21 PM on November 17, 2012

Guys, she already has the watch.
posted by Specklet at 1:24 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ah, good point, specklet.

While no gift presentation instances are memorable to me in the series, I suggest...

Wrap it in a Hogwarts school acceptance letter with the text tweaked for her? "Dear Miss Katie, we are pleased to inform you that we are throwing you a 17th birthday party..." It would be pretty easy to make the paper look like old parchment by doing the spilled coffee + burn around the edges method.

Or something as simple as writing KATIE'S HORCRUX on the box/wrapping. A horcrux is an important part of the end of the series - powerful wizards store parts of their soul in these objects.
posted by wintersonata9 at 1:57 PM on November 17, 2012

Before you decide to go with the method suggested by wintersonata9, it might be important for you to know that horcruxes are used by dark wizards to store parts of their souls, and that usually the method used to break off a part of the soul is to commit a murder. So, you know, be careful with that one.

I did note that throughout the books gifts for birthdays seem to be just left on the foot of the bed in a heap - I think this occurs both at Hogwarts and at the Weasley's, where Harry is staying on his birthday in Book Seven. The only time I can think of anyone making a to-do about opening birthday presents is in the first book, when Harry's cousin Dudley has his wrapped birthday presents heaped on the kitchen table, and the table is so laden with presents that Harry can't find room to put down plates. So maybe that's the approach to take? Dudley makes a big deal about counting the presents and making sure he has more presents than he had gotten the year before, so maybe number them and reassure her that it's more than last year.

Holy cow, I'm a nerd.
posted by SeedStitch at 2:34 PM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

Can you have it delivered by owl? Failing that... bespoke owl wrapping paper might be a nice touch.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:50 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might get her a Golden Snitch locket with a "resurrection stone" in it and "I open at the close" inscribed on the side. Like this. Or you could just get a big yellow plastic ball that opens, like this, and paint "I open at the close" on it, and attach some wings to it, and put the watch inside. Explanation here -- the thing I'm talking about is the Golden Snitch that is willed to Harry in the last novel. It could be a clever way to wrap the watch/ensure there is a HP feel to the giving and receiving experience.
posted by brina at 3:10 PM on November 17, 2012

and paint "I open at the close" on it, and attach some wings to it, and put the watch inside

That's sort of super depressing, though, since SPOILER ALERT she technically should then not be able to open it until she is literally about to die.
posted by elizardbits at 3:37 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd just get a dragon egg from the many available on the internet and nest the watch in that.

There is also a phone booth that leads to the Ministry of Magic so you could make a nice tie with the Who Tardis.
posted by effluvia at 4:18 PM on November 17, 2012

There is no ceremony involved but it is obviously an important present. In the epilogue which takes place several years later Harry still has it. I love the idea of owl wrapping paper or maybe you paint the front of a box to look like a hollowed out copy of Hogwarts: a history and put the watch in there.

In the Harry Potter universe the 17th birthday is when a witch or wizard comes of age - Harry and Ron are given watches to commemorate that.
posted by Laura_J at 4:56 PM on November 17, 2012

I think the fact that you heard her request and are so accomidating to it is the biggest thing you can do. Have something Harry Potterish about it (wrapping or decoration as mentioned up thread) because the best gift you can give a 17 year old is showing that you not only listen to them but respect what they have said.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:05 PM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would wrap it in paper and tie it with string (either like purple and gold or brown paper with twine) to make it all Weasleyish looking.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:38 PM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

In addition to coming of age (our maybe because of it), 17 is when a wizard can take their apparition test. Not sure how to tie that in exactly though.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 11:02 PM on November 17, 2012

I wouldn't worry about the Time Turner angle, personally; that'd be better for a younger child or someone with a particular love of Hermione. The Master's watch would be much more what I'd have been hoping for if I dropped a bunch of hints like this around my seventeenth birthday.

Do you know much about Doctor Who? I'm thinking you could re-tell the story around the watch in a Harry Potterish way, with "magical" explanations where the Doctor would use more scientific (for very timey-wimey values of science) language. I remember the HP books doing this a lot with human/Muggle technology and it being a very charming way of conveying how different the wizarding world is from our own. If you do this, a certificate of origin or such written on parchment to accompany the watch would be really neat and help make the watch seem like an artifact of that universe.
posted by teremala at 10:09 AM on November 18, 2012

The Dr. Who watch is a fantastic idea. Please don't start wondering if your gift is good enough with all the "time turner" comments. The time turner was a cool item in the books, but almost no one in real life would actually use one, any more than they carry around pocket watches or really anything other than a wrist watch.

There is no particular ceremony attached to the watch-giving as it is written in the books, but it's wonderfully easy to make anything Harry Potter themed. You could use brown paper wrapping with twine and way too many stamps (or stickers made to look like stamps) and "redirected" comments written on it. That sort of wrapping is itself a reference to something else Harry receives in the books.

Seconding raccoon409 above. A little bit of detail goes a long, long way. You don't need to go nuts and make the whole day a themed one - it might feel kiddy in fact - but just getting something that relates to two of her favorite things shows that you listened and that you care about the stories that mean so much to her.
posted by Urban Winter at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2012

I knew I could count on you guys! Thanks for the info, and for the ideas.

Yes, I already have the watch I'm going to give her, and she does have quite a bit of HP-related memorabilia, including a pocket watch, an Official Hermione Wand (!!), a robe, stuffed owl, and various related books, movies and games.

I like the idea of wrapping it in some HP-ish style. Shouldn't be too hard to find something appropriate. And I love the idea of writing a note. Hadn't thought of that, but it makes perfect sense to commemorate her "coming of age", even though she's still mah baybee girl in real life. :-)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2012

Another wrapping possibility would be to wrap it in brown paper, address it to her, and then cover all the rest of the available space with stamps, like the letter Mrs Weasley sends to the Dursleys at the beginning of Goblet of Fire. If you used low-value stamps (I know we can still get 5c ones here) it wouldn't be too expensive.

(Possibly you could also do something funny with the address - letters to Harry in the Philosopher's Stone are variously addressed to "Mr. H. Potter, The Cupboard Under The Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey", and then "Mr. H. Potter, The Smallest Bedroom, 4 Privet Drive..." and my personal favourite, "Mr. H. Potter, The Floor, Hut-on-the-Rock, The Sea.")
posted by Cheese Monster at 10:04 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooops, I didn't realise that Urban Winter beat me to the TooManyStamps idea. Sorry!
posted by Cheese Monster at 9:28 PM on November 20, 2012

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