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.

Housing Day 2010

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • The last bastion of innocence

    The last bastion of innocence

    Eliot House's resident tutor Brett Huggett holds one-and-a-half year old daughter Lucy for dear life.

  • Jungle love

    Jungle love

    Leighdra the Lion (Johanna Rodda '10) gets a beastly smooch off of Mike Pankratz '11 of Mather House.

  • Blood, sweat, and body paint

    Blood, sweat, and body paint

    Graham Frankel '12, of Pforzheimer House, forgoes dignity and braves chilly temps in the name of Housing Day.

  • Scoring one for Winthrop

    Scoring one for Winthrop

    Famous residents of Winthrop House include John, Joseph, and Edward Kennedy. Here, Daniel Lage '11 culls from history to heighten the allure of Winthrop House.

  • A tall order

    A tall order

    Max Binder '10, from Adams House, is on stilts, towering above freshmen inside Annenberg Hall.

  • Cheeky wabbit

    Cheeky wabbit

    Lavinia Mitroi '12 dons ears and Leverett House cheek tattoos.

  • Too much information

    Too much information

    Harvard's most historic House gets freaky with the likes of Kate Leist '11 (left) and Kellie O'Toole '11, who make a bold argument.

  • Eliot forever

    Eliot forever

    Shouts and signs? This ain't no political rally. It's Alfredo Montelongo '11, and he loves Eliot House.

  • Resident bear

    Resident bear

    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.

  • Better than what?

    Better than what?

    Housing Day is kind of like the Mardi Gras of Harvard. Here, Ebele Anidi '12 shows his passion for Cabot House, and some New Orleans-style bling.

  • Mean green

    Mean green

    Danielle Gram '11 (left) and Amy Rosenthal '11 are lucky charms for Currier House.

  • House party

    House party

    Life is a breeze at Eliot House, or so this T-shirt suggests.