Ranking Harry’s Birthdays from Best to Worst
Harry’s birthday is always a fixture of the beginning of each book in the series, whether it’s mentioned in a brief line or two or it’s a dramatic affair. Either way, the 31st of July and how Harry spends it is often a tone-setter for the rest of the book and the challenges he’s about to face.
1. 11th Birthday
Harry started this birthday alone on the floor of a hut out at sea, drawing a cake in the dirt, but even so, Harry’s 11th birthday was by far his best throughout the series. On this day, not only did Harry learn that he was a wizard, but also that he would be leaving the Dursleys to attend Hogwarts. What’s more, Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley – his first wondrous view of the wizarding world – where he learned that his parents had left him a pile of money, he bought a wand, and Hagrid gave him Hedwig as a birthday present. Now that’s a birthday worth remembering!
2. 16th Birthday
Things begin to go rather downhill for Harry’s birthdays at this point, but after his 11th, Harry’s 16th birthday is the most pleasant. Spent at the Burrow with the Weasleys and Hermione, Mrs. Weasley made a small feast, and there’s a very high chance they snuck in a game of Quidditch. But nothing in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is untouched by the shadow of the Death Eaters. After Lupin arrived with the news that Florean Fortescue was missing from his ice cream shop in Diagon Alley and Karkaroff, former headmaster of Durmstrang, had been found dead, likely no one felt like celebrating.
3. 17th Birthday
Harry’s 17th birthday was a complicated one. He finally came of age and could legally do magic away from school – but nearly every feeling is bittersweet. His fiery kiss with Ginny resulted in a fight with Ron and served as a reminder of why Harry and Ginny couldn’t be together. The gifts from his friends were either indicators of what he wouldn’t experience or signs of the grimness to come. Even his Snitch-shaped cake that Mrs. Weasley baked herself was double-edged – Scrimgeour, who paid an unwelcome visit during dinner, tried to use it to learn more about Harry’s relationship with Dumbledore. Hovering over it all were the deaths of both Mad-Eye Moody and Hedwig.
4. 14th Birthday
If Harry’s 17th birthday was a bittersweet one, his 14th is mostly unremarkable. He spent the day cooped up at Privet Drive, and the Dursleys made no attempt to mention his birthday, let alone give him any presents. He at least didn’t have to spend the day eating grapefruit quarters and carrot sticks, since Hermione, Ron, Sirius, and Hagrid each sent him a birthday cake to hide under the floorboards.
5. 13th Birthday
The year Harry turned 13 was marked by a spree of dramatic events. Not only did he have to endure Aunt Marge’s abuse, but he also accidentally inflated her in anger, ran away, escaped to Diagon Alley, and was promptly caught by the Minister of Magic. He did receive a great gift from Hermione, though, in the form of a broomstick servicing kit for his Nimbus 2000. Even if it all turned out all right in the end, I’d say it was one of Harry’s more unpleasant birthdays.
6. 12th Birthday
Harry’s 12th birthday was going to be bad when he had to spend the evening in his room pretending not to exist. But then Dobby arrived, and when Harry refused to stay away from Hogwarts, the house-elf upended Aunt Petunia’s perfectly prepared pudding all over the kitchen floor, leaving Harry with the blame. To make matters worse, Harry then got a formal reprimand from the Ministry of Magic for doing magic outside of school. It was these events that resulted in the installation of bars on Harry’s window and a catflap in his bedroom door.
7. 15th Birthday
While Harry’s 15th birthday isn’t given much mention in the books, I still think it’s the worst one in all seven years. Reeling from his experience in the graveyard, experiencing grief, anger, and confusion around the trauma of Cedric Diggory’s death and Dumbledore and the wizarding world’s apparent abandonment of him, Harry spent his 15th birthday alone at Privet Drive with the Dursleys. He was so angry at Ron and Hermione’s inability to share relevant news with him that he threw away the Honeydukes chocolates they sent as a birthday present and instead had a birthday feast of Aunt Petunia’s sad, wilted salad.
So as the seventh month dies, let’s hope that Harry’s 40th birthday is spent with friends and family and is full of cake, love, and affection. Because after all those years of horrible birthdays, he deserves it. Happy birthday, Harry!