How do we know Harry’s birthdate?

Muggles the world over – as well as bonafide witches and wizards like you and I – will, this Friday, celebrate the 40th birthday of one of the most popular icons in popualr culture – the one-and-only boy who lived: Harry James Potter.

Harry was born to James and Lily Potter on July 31, 1980. While the famous series never mentions his exact birth date, fans have pieced together the evidence to pinpoint the date.

We know from the first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that Harry receives his letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because he is turning 11. However, at this stage in the story, we do not know what year it is. We do, however, know roughly what date it is.

Poor Uncle Dursley is driven mad by the constant and magical delivery of letters addressed to Harry. They flee but to no avail. The wizarding world tracks them down (duh!) and Harry finally gets to read his letter when Hagrid presents it to him in person. The letter gives us a vital piece of information about the likely date of Harry’s birthday.

“Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J.K.Rowling

So, Harry’s birthday is either on or before 31st July.

Further support for Harry’s birthday falling on at the end of July appears in the the fifth book when Dumbledore reveals the lost prophecy to Harry.

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….”
Professor Trelawney’s Prophecy Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K.Rowling.

Trelawny’s prophecy, made years earlier and revealed by Dumbledore in the pensieve, confirms that “the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord” was born at the end of the seventh month – July.

But when at the end of July? Which day?

Let’s go back to Harry’s 11th birthday. Harry and teh Dursleys are at the hut on the rock. It’s almost midnight and Harry counts down the minutes and seconds to his birthday. Hagrid appears and hands the letter to Harry. “We await your owl no later than 31 July.” Could it be that, given the delays in delivering Harry’s letter, Dumbledore despatched Hagrid as a matter of urgency as the 31st July deadline approached? One ponders that such an important wizard may have been given an exemption if he were forced to RSVP beyond the deadline but perhaps Dumbledore, at least in the early days of the series, didn’t want to be seen to be favouring the legendary Harry Potter.

So, it seems likely that 31st July was the deadline for accepting the offer to attend Hogwarts AND also Harry’s 11th birthday. Likely but not confirmed.

Back to the year and book number two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry and his friends celebrate Nearly Headless Nick’s 500th deathday – the anniversary of the fateful day when he nearly completely lost his head. It’s the 31st October – Halloween. Nick’s cake is decorated with the following (very useful) bit of information: “Sir Nicholas De Mimsy-Porpington died 31st October, 1492” We already know Harry is 12 when he starts his second year at Hogwarts. Counting forward five centuries, we can work out that Harry was born in 1980.

The year is confirmed – 1980 and some would argue that the EXACT date remains in contention. But, consider the following irrefutable facts:

  • 31 July is also J.K.Rowling’s birthday
  • Registrations for the Pottermore site, developed by Rowling, opened on 31 July
  • – the official site for all things Harry Potter which replaced Pottermore – celebrates Harry’s birthday on 31 July. Check out the video below posted on 31st July 2017.
  • We believe that – presented with all that evidence, we can confidently celebrate Harry’s 40th birthday this Friday 31st July. Even the Ministry of Magic would surely concur!

    Happy 40th birthday Harry Potter!

    Author: Professor Penelope Presto
    Professor Presto is Headmaster at the esteemed Quizzical Academy of Sorcery and also Chief Wrangler of wizards large and small. She loves to bake toad cake and swaps recipes with like-minded wizards all over the world. On Tuesdays she joins the local Goblins and Gouls swimming club for a few laps before a lunch of wiggle-root salad.

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