Body paint just won’t do for Graham Frankel ’12, as he do-si-dos for Pforzheimer House with polar bear mascot Cara Sprague ’11.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Housing Day

3 min read

Harvard Rituals

A sea of undergraduates flows outside Memorial Hall, shouting, dancing, pulsating, as students bob and weave to find and greet new housemates. Banners dip and soar like tethered kites. Colors abound, on signs, on painted faces, on makeshift tents and domes labeled “Adams,” “Winthrop,” and “Kirkland.” Music throbs, and the energy is frenzied, like at an outdoor disco. But it’s actually Housing Day at Harvard.

This is the time when freshmen receive their assignments to one of the 12 upper-class Houses where they will live for the next three years. It is one of Harvard’s most hallowed rituals, an annual event generating more anticipation than the Harvard-Yale football game. “If you’re not happy with your House assignment today,” said one upperclassman, “just wait a month, and you will be.”

“Just look around, it’s magical,” said another. He might have been referring to the costumed lion, two moose, and polar bears running about. It could almost be the Magic Kingdom, right here at Harvard.