Harry Potter-themed Yule Ball brings holiday magic to Rutgers
On Sunday, "Harry Potter" fans attended their third annual "Yule Ball," named after a formal dance held at Hogwarts in J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series.
The party, which was also a fundraiser, was held by Muggle Mayhem, Rutgers' Harry Potter fan club, in the Red Lion Cafe in the basement of the College Avenue Student Center.
“It's a very chill event,” said Sky Bolkin, the vice president of the club. “We just want people to come and hang out and maybe meet some new people that also like Harry Potter.”
The School of Arts and Sciences senior said that each year since 2015, Muggle Mayhem hosts the "Yule Ball" a week or two before finals begin as a way for club members and their friends to unwind at the end of the semester.
Muggle Mayhem is the local chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, an international community service organization run by Harry Potter fans. J. K. Rowling is among the organization's supporters.
This semester, Muggle Mayhem partnered with the New Brunswick Free Public Library to collect and donate books, Bolkin said. So far, the club has collected approximately 100 books.
The event was also a fundraiser for the International Medical Corps, which provides medical equipment and services to people lacking access to them, Bolkin said. The International Medical Corps is currently providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
In addition to planning community service events, the club hosts "Harry Potter"-themed meetings, which include trivia games, book discussions and activities such as wand-making workshops.
“At our last meeting, we had a very big discussion about the wizarding world across the world, and what the education system might look like in other countries,” Bolkin said. “J. K. Rowling recently discussed the difference in magic and education in Africa and the United States and South America and whatnot, so we discussed about that ... It was super nerdy, but super fun.”
Haley Dittmer, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said that the discussions are similar in tone to those of an advanced literature class. Even though the club's discussions often reach subjects beyond the scope of the novels, she said that fans are comfortable expanding the world of the story.
“It's no longer J. K. Rowling's book,” she said. “As soon as she published it and sent it off, it's our book to interpret and go off of.”
Bolkin said that meetings typically have about 15 attendees.
Members of Muggle Mayhem designate themselves as members of one of the four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin. Bolkin said members decide which house they want to join, but most take a sorting quiz on Pottermore, the official Harry Potter website.
Bolkin said that most members are in Ravenclaw.
“Ravenclaw is not just smart,” said Jordan Cohen, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “It's always learning, always growing, always finding something new. It's a little bit of crazy, taking a look at everything from a different angle, riddles, always trying to better your intellect.”
Gryffindor, despite being the house associated with the heroes of the novels, is severely underrepresented in Muggle Mayhem, Bolkin said.
Tuhina Chakravorty, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, is in Slytherin — the house associated with many of the novels' villains.
“J. K. Rowling hated Slytherin,” Chakravorty said. “But if you think of the qualities — cunning, self-preservation, resourcefulness, ambition – they aren't inherently negative qualities. They're all things you need.”
Most people at the "Yule Ball" were not members of Muggle Mayhem. Bolkin said that typically the event draws approximately 100 attendees.
“It's really beautiful to see how it's grown from when we started, with there being no one who came, to now, when we have the 'Yule Ball' and people actually show up and we raise a lot of money for charity,” Bolkin said.