A penguin whoops it up. A moose and a red fish trade barbs from behind megaphones. A boar sits atop the John Harvard Statue. Four young men dressed as polar bears take a victory lap around Harvard Yard.

It’s not a dream — this is Housing Day at Harvard.

Upperclassmen kicked off their annual “holiday” with a raucous charge on Harvard Yard, racing to snag the coveted celebration spot surrounding the John Harvard Statue. As in many years past, it was the students from Kirkland House who secured the space in the earliest hours of Thursday morning.

“We have the most House spirit,” said Kirkland’s Francesca Childs ’17, as she and her housemates waited for the remaining Houses to arrive. Childs’ comments drew cheers from suitemate Melissa Balding.

“A lot of freshmen ask what the best House is. For me it’s never been a question: It’s Kirkland,” Balding said as she and her friends danced with a young man dressed up as a boar — Kirkland’s official mascot.

The unusually warm temperatures brought many more students and spectators to the Yard than in years past, as residents from each of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses raced past the gates to claim their turf outside University Hall. Adams House undergrads sported their usual sport jackets, bow ties, and boxer shorts, while Dunster’s rowdy residents donned moose antlers in honor of their beloved mascot.

Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana and Stephanie Khurana, who are co-House faculty deans of Cabot House, joined the red fish mascot and dozens of Cabot residents clad in “Force Awakens” T-shirts as they took their spot on the hall’s front steps.

“Cabot’s spirit is embodied in our motto, ‘Semper cor,’ or ‘Always heart,’” the Khuranas said in a statement. “Today’s festivities are such a fabulous time when students celebrate the love they have for their Houses and give a warm welcome to their incoming freshmen.”

Representatives from each House filed inside University Hall to receive letters to deliver to freshmen informing them of their assignments. With their letters in hand, students from each House then stormed into the dorms, letting the Class of 2019 know where they will be living the next three years.

“For me, family starts with a ‘Pf,’” said Muhammed Ors ’17 of Pforzheimer House, as he handed out an assignment. “Every one of our new residents is going to learn today what makes ‘PfoHo’ the best.”

Not so, said Dunster’s Laila Carter ’17 as she stepped into another freshman’s room. “We own this day,” she exclaimed, before breaking into a “D-House” chant with Dunsters’ newest residents. “I love Housing Day. It’s about showing how invested we are in our Houses when we otherwise might take them for granted.”

Some of the House faculty deans and administrators joined the show with their student communities.

“Lowell House is unique because of the strong sense of community that our two wonderful courtyards embrace,” said Lowell House Faculty Dean Diana Eck. “But it is also a community that does not depend upon bricks and stone, but on the bonds of generosity, hospitality, and House spirit that are ours.”

After making their deliveries, representatives from the Houses congregated at Annenberg Hall, where they greeted their new residents as freshmen gathered for lunch. Per tradition, upperclassmen hugged and high-fived the freshmen as they made their way in to pick up T-shirts, headbands, and bags emblazoned with the colors and shields of their new homes.

“I simply love Housing Day and the special spirit and pride exhibited by all our Houses,” said Dean of Freshman and Interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman.

A Storify collection of social media posts captures more of Housing Day.

1 The Dunster House moose rides a scooter to the Yard as students celebrate Housing Day — the day upperclassmen deliver letters to freshmen informing them of their assigned housing for the next three years. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
2 An Adams House resident proudly waves the House flag. Photo by Shraddha Gupta
3 Hannah Natanson (from left), Grace Wagner, and Liz Roux watch from their window in Straus as upperclassmen deliver housing assignments. They kiddingly said they were hoping for anything but PfoHo. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
4 Kirkland House students run to catch up on Dunster Street. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
5 The Quincy House penguin takes center stage as students filter into the Yard. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
6 Freshmen cheer for Leverett House, and its House mascot. Photo by Shraddha Gupta
7 An Adams House student cheers for her residence. Photo by Shraddha Gupta
8 The newest residents of Lowell House cheer for their home in full spirit. Photo by Shraddha Gupta
9 Adams House residents announce their presence to freshmen inside Holworthy Hall. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
10 Housing Day festivities inside Annenberg Hall. Photo by Shraddha Gupta
11 Cabot House residents gather to celebrate Housing Day in Harvard Yard. Photo by Shraddha Gupta