31

I have been re-reading the Harry Potter books again and I noticed that Harry, Ron and Hermione have been giving each other Christmas presents each year at Hogwarts. How have they been able to buy each other presents if they are not allowed to go out of Hogwarts?

From their third year on they could visit the village and buy presents there, but what about the first two years? Did they give their personal belongings? Or did they just happen to have boxes of chocolates or books to give each other?

  • 40
    Mail order by owl appears constantly. – Radhil Oct 25 '17 at 13:19
  • 18
    If a convicted and escaped murderer could buy an elite broomstick for the most famous student at Hogwarts, likely so too could his two best friends buy him chocolate :) – NKCampbell Oct 25 '17 at 13:26
  • I think Black took Crockshank's help to buy(Mail order) the broomstick. There was some explanation for it in the book although I don't fully remember. – dobby Oct 25 '17 at 13:32
  • 3
    @Preeti - the only explanation in the book is the one Black himself gives Harry. Black simply says he (and Crookshanks) ordered the broom under Harry's name but instructed Gringotts to take the gold from the Black vault - scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/26537/… – NKCampbell Oct 25 '17 at 13:41
  • diagon-alley.co.uk most likely – Jorge Córdoba Oct 25 '17 at 21:37
34

There were a mixture of homemade and shop-bought items. The latter could've been ordered by owl.

Let's look at the presents which are given and received by the trio in the first two books.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:
- A wooden flute, given to Harry by Hagrid.
- A jumper and some fudge, given to both Ron and Harry by Mrs Weasley.
- A large box of Chocolate Frogs, given to Harry by Hermione.
- A box of Every-Flavour Beans, given to Ron by Hermione.
- James Potter's Invisibility Cloak, given to Harry by Dumbledore.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
- A large tin of treacle fudge, given to Harry by Hagrid.
- A copy of Flying with the Cannons (a book), given to Harry by Ron.
- A luxury eagle-feather quill, given to Harry by Hermione.
- A knitted jumper and a large plum cake, given to Harry by Mrs Weasley.

I've ignored the non-gifts from the Dursleys, which I think shouldn't really count.

From this list we can see that quite a few of the gifts are homemade.

It was wrapped in thick brown paper and scrawled across it was To Harry, from Hagrid. Inside was a roughly cut wooden flute. Hagrid had obviously whittled it himself.
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 12, The Mirror of Erised).

Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of homemade fudge.
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 12, The Mirror of Erised).

However, the homemade nature of some of the gifts certainly shouldn't imply that they were made because commercial alternatives weren't available. Hagrid and Mrs Weasley were more than capable of going to wizarding shops if they'd wanted to. They simply preferred the personal charm of homemade gifts.

As for the children, it's true to say that they couldn't have got the presents from Hogsmeade, since first- and second-years weren't permitted to go. It's highly unlikely though that they only gave unwanted items that they just happened to have lying around. The only possible exception is Flying with the Canons, which might conceivably be a second-hand book once owned by Ron. He doesn't come from a wealthy family, after all, so he probably didn't have a great deal of money available for presents. We also don't have a record of Ron buying Harry a present in year one, which again could imply limited means. It's possible that, knowing Harry's keen interest in Quidditch, Ron decided to give him one of his old books.

However, Hermione's presents were almost certainly shop-bought. It's unlikely that she would give Harry a second-hand quill. Additionally, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans were commercially branded confectionary products. These weren't homemade imitations but mass-distributed household names. They had to be shop-bought by definition.

How could they get hold of the presents? I can think of a few options:

  • The gifts were obtained in Hogsmeade and the trio simply asked older children (who had permisson to go) to buy the presents on their behalf.
  • The kids bought the presents in Diagon Alley at the start of the year in the knowledge that shopping trips during termtime would be few and far between.
  • As Mike. C. Ford suggests, Hermione could've bought her gifts from the first year in person in Diagon Alley and sent them on by owl (since she wasn't at Hogwarts for Christmas that year).
  • The presents were ordered from Hogwarts by mail order. It's likely that businesses from both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley would've operated an owl order system for remote customers, along the lines of Fred and George's operation. Hogwarts students would be able to avail themselves of this.

    "Fred and George are driving Muriel up the wall, they're still operating an Owl Order business out of her back room."
    (Deathly Hallows, Chapter 25, Shell Cottage).

It's highly unlikely that the presents were bought at Hogwarts. Valorum has found a good prop from one of the movies which suggests that there was, in movie canon, a tuck shop where students could buy some snacks. However, this shop doesn't appear in the books at all. Whenever students need to buy something, in both the books and the movies, they use Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade. For example, when Harry and Ron need to buy copies of Advanced Potion-Making for Potions midway through the school year they didn't use a school shop but sent away for copies to be delivered by owl from Flourish and Blotts. There's no precedent for any student buying things at Hogwarts (except on the black market). I think we can rule out Hogwarts as a source for the presents.

  • 7
    Most boarding schools also have a commissary, to allow students to buy essentials like toothpaste and small amounts of food. They might also carry magazines, books and moderately-priced items that could be given as presents. – Valorum Oct 25 '17 at 14:45
  • 1
    @Mike.C.Ford She's there in the second year but not the first. You're right, her first-year presents could be been shop-bought. – The Dark Lord Oct 25 '17 at 14:58
  • 2
    I'm glad you included a quote that mentioned a sweater. I knew/assumed a jumper was clothes but I couldn't figure out what type of clothes. – Erik Oct 25 '17 at 16:34
  • 2
    I like how Harry doesn't give a single present. – Worse_Username Oct 26 '17 at 11:58
  • 2
    Hermione bought Harry an owl-order gift before her third year while she was on vacation. “I bought your present by owl-order; there was an advertisement in the Daily Prophet (I’ve been getting it delivered, it’s so good to keep up with what’s going on in the wizarding world).” - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 1 (Owl Post) – Bellatrix Oct 26 '17 at 20:43
16

In the films we learn that the school had a tuck shop, as evidenced by this poster that appeared (very briefly) on the Gryffindor Common Room noticeboard. I would imagine that as well as delicious...

cauldron cakes and pumpkin pastries

...it probably also carried a line of inexpensive gift items that could be given out as Christmas presents.

enter image description here
Image courtesy of HP: The Exhibition

  • Is it likely that a tuck shop would sell quills or books on the Chudley Cannons? – The Dark Lord Oct 25 '17 at 15:24
  • 2
    @TheDarkLord - I can't speak for other schools, but in additional to tuck (for those with a sweet tooth) mine carried all sorts of useful items like spare ties (for those idiots who persistently lost theirs), toys and games, stationery, and school-branded merchandise. I can't remember if they had any eagle-feather quills, but they definitely had boxes of fudge and sporting biographies. – Valorum Oct 25 '17 at 15:44
  • 1
    Quills, ink, and other "student-consumable" products - almost certainly yes. Books on quidditch - well, it depends how popular they were. Profitable retailing is all about letting your customers buy whatever they want to buy. – alephzero Oct 25 '17 at 15:47
  • 2
    @alephzero - Books and magazines are always a popular choice. There are a lot of hours to kill when you board. – Valorum Oct 25 '17 at 15:51
  • 2
    @TheDarkLord, Even if the items weren't normally carried, it's likely any established shop like that would take special orders. Doing so would be a normal and expected method of them obtaining additional income. Obviously, it's not in cannon, but the proprietor would be a poor business person if they didn't do it, at least on a cost+ basis (unless prohibited by some regulation, which seems unlikely under Dumbledore). – Makyen Oct 25 '17 at 18:40
11

Although it has never been fully revealed by JKR, but based on the reading AFA buying the presents is concerned, it could be done via mail/owl order. One can send the order and money via an owl and the present will be delivered to the person in concern. Sirius has done it (by sending mail order through Crookshanks) to send Firebolt to Harry and students used to purchase Fred/George stuff from WWW via mail order as well.

During Christmas/Easter and holiday season, the process seems a little more controlled as there are hundreds of students getting/exchanging thousands of presents during the festivals not to mention added number of presents sent by their families and friends outside Hogwarts. In this case, it seems like the presents are delivered to a central location, probably some storage location near Hogwarts owlery and from there, the house-elfs delivered the presents in the dead of the night making a pile of presents at their footsteps and everything for the students.

  • Your idea about a central location to store presents is not at all improbable (and it's almost certain that the presents were mostly put by the beds by elves) - but there isn't actually an evidence for it in the books, is there? Indeed, Hedwig is shown delivering one of Harry's presents in person so it wasn't as if there was only one system which people could use. – The Dark Lord Oct 25 '17 at 14:05
  • Off course there are more than one system with which people can give presents to each other. Like I said, it has never been disclosed in the book but seems like a logical reasoning. Furthermore, the presents on Christmas are delivered all in one go to give the receiver a more Christmasy feeling and surprise of seeing all presents at once. Single packages on non festive days and on birthdays are usually delivered to the owners straight away. Then again, there are many things which are left hanging on magic. One could also argue how Owls know where to deliver as they can't read address :) – Harry_S Oct 25 '17 at 14:10
  • hmm...I can kind of see packages arriving to a central area at christmas time and being distributed by house elfs rather than the owls – NKCampbell Oct 25 '17 at 14:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.