Campus & Community

Housing Day is back in the house

Students grasp envelopes with the Housing assignments for first-year students.

Excitement grows on the steps of University Hall as envelopes arrive containing House assignments.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

After a two-year COVID hiatus, upperclass students return to the Yard to welcome first-years to their future homes

And the Polar Bear shall party with the Penguin.

The House mascots from Pforzheimer and Quincy gathered with their costumed peers and a few hundred of their closest friends early Thursday morning for the historic return of one of Harvard’s most beloved traditions — Housing Day, last celebrated in person in pre-pandemic 2019.

Masses of sophomores, juniors, and seniors crowded outside University Hall around the John Harvard Statue to the booming soundtrack of College Dean Rakesh Khurana’s Spotify Housing Day playlist.

“I’m elated to have our amazing tradition back. It’s wonderful to see the students celebrating their Houses and all of the pride,” said Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College as “Closer” by The Chainsmokers played. “Obviously they have a lot of pent-up energy from the last two years.”

The rules of the tradition for formally welcoming first-years to the House they will live in for the next three years are simple. Upperclass students storm the Yard dorms of their new housemates to break the exciting news.

“Because this is the first Housing Day that’s happened in two years, it’s really special to see all the Harvard students out running into the yard,” said Winthrop House’s Kate Stevens ’24. “There hasn’t been this much School spirit and excitement for a really long time because of COVID. But now, as things are becoming better, spirits are high and everyone is really excited.”

A flag-waving Dunster student rallies the troops.
A flag-waving Dunsterite rallies the troops.

House T-shirts riffing on pop culture are a popular part of the experience. Mather took inspiration from the red-and-white Marvel logo, while Cabot poked at the pandemic with T-shirts modeled on the Color COVID testing logo.

Nia Burch, a sophomore in Cabot studying government, said, “It’s been nice to live through the experience of the freshmen because they’re really excited, and we didn’t get this experience.”

And they were excited. Milen Negasi ’25, a new Winthrop resident, said: “It’s the last time I will be together with my [first-year] friends before we go off on our own journeys. It is so nice to feel so connected in such a unique Harvard experience. We’ve been waiting for this since Day One.”

Lauren Wattendorf wears Mather House attire.
House assignments are handed to Quincy House members.

Lauren Wattendorf ’24 is Mather through and through. House assignments are handed to Quincy House members.

The day was also really special for seniors who were first-years in 2019. “When Mather burst in the dorm, I remembered that I couldn’t wait to do the same thing to first-years the next year,” said Elizabeth Denehy of Mather. “Today I realized that we were the only class on campus (I gapped so social ’22, academic ’23) that has had a real Housing Day but has never been on the other side. The excitement today was unmatched — it seemed like we were all trying to show the underclassmen what a real Housing Day could look like and how amazing Harvard truly is. While the 7 a.m. wake-up was rough, this has been one of my favorite memories.”

Todd Qiu ’22 flashes a Pforzheimer smile for the camera while dressed as the House polar bear mascot.
Todd Qiu ’22 flashes a Pforzheimer smile for the camera while dressed as the House polar bear mascot.
Lowell tutor Meghan Blumstein cradles Scout, one of seven House dogs.
Lowell tutor Meghan Blumstein cradles Spencer, one of seven House dogs.
Tuzo Mulunda ’23 wears bunny ears to celebrate Leverett House.
Trumpeters toot their horns skyward.

Tuzo Mulunda ’23, bottom center, joins her bunny-eared housemates in shouting “Leverett” to the rooftops. Trumpeters toot their horns skyward.

A Currier House flag waver and tree mascot celebrate.
Currier House shows its pride in front of University Hall.