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From Heritage to Hogwarts: The Yule Ball comes to Miami

In "Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire," Hogwarts plays host to the Yule Ball, a Christmas-themed formal dance, to celebrate the Triwizard tournament. Harry and Ron struggle to find dates, learn how to dance and feel completely ridiculous in their dress robes, encapsulating all of the typical emotions of normal (Muggle, perhaps) 14-year-olds at a high school dance.

The Yule Ball is probably the most relatable event in all of the series, because, as Professor McGonagall once said, it is a chance to "let our hair down."

So, it seemed most fitting that the Department of Magical Appreciation hosted their very own Yule Ball on Friday night in the Heritage room of Shriver. As an enormous fan of the series, I indulged in the night of Harry Potter fellowship with pure delight.

The Department of Magical Appreciation is a club that celebrates all things Harry Potter. They work hard to promote the appreciation of the Harry Potter series, because it was a childhood passion they believe deserves to continue into adulthood.

As we walked in the door, we were instructed to choose our house by selecting a bracelet from a basket. I like to think I am a Gryffindor at heart because they are brave and adventurous, but the Sorting Hat would probably laugh in my face at this request (I can be a big chicken, on occasion). In the absence of the real Sorting Hat, however, my dreams of being a fierce Gryffindor came true at Miami's Yule Ball.

I sat down at a table with two Slytherins, two Ravenclaws, a Hufflepuff and two fellow Gryffindors. The Heritage room's dark glow and romantic chandeliers were the perfect aesthetic for the evening's wizarding festivities.

We feasted on salad, pasta and breadsticks while chatting about each of our Harry Potter obsessions -- mine is Ginny Weasley's immense personality and lack of acknowledgment in the movies (she is so cool, why was there not more screen time?). We joked about how one of my friends has an enormous crush on Tom Felton, and she credits her obsession with Slytherin to that crush.

At the table next to us, two Hufflepuffs were discussing Nagini's role in the films and the impact of various dark wizards. They were so deeply engaged in conversation it almost seemed as if they were discussing real people in the real world. In their defense, I would argue that to many of the franchise's fans, the world of Harry Potter is real.

Book releases and movie premieres peppered our childhoods; I was three when the first movie premiered, and 13 when the final installment made its debut. J.K. Rowling cultivated my entertainment taste -- I constantly compared everything I read or watched to Harry Potter.

I know very few people who have never read a Harry Potter book or seen one of the movies. Despite this, I sometimes struggle to find other people who are as invested in the lives of the characters as I am. So, as our groups sat and debated whether or not Ron and Hermione should have ended up together, I was reveling in the fun that comes with totally geeking.

At one point, a girl in a green ball gown with a full skirt walked in and took off her coat. She was completely in character, and her dress was so Potter-esque that the girl next to me dropped her jaw and said, "Slytherin is slaying my life." The dedication to this event was impressive.

Once the music began, so did the dancing. No one was afraid to look goofy or uncool, adding to the energetic atmosphere. It was like a junior high dance -- awkward, a little embarrassing but lots of fun.

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Sidney Edwards, vice president of the Department of Magical Appreciation, says this is the biggest event the club hosts, and that this year's was their most successful ball yet.

"The ball is a big event in the books and we thought it represented both our club and the spirit of Harry Potter," Edwards said. "Why not have a ball?"

The Department of Magical Appreciation meets at 8 p.m. every other Thursday and is always welcoming to new witches and wizards.