Throngs of Harvard Students Bare It All for Primal Scream


Masses of College students streaked around the perimeter of Harvard Yard at the stroke of midnight Monday as part of “Primal Scream,” a school tradition.

Around twenty minutes before midnight, members of the Harvard University Band — most of whom donned only their underwear and red coats — congregated around the John Harvard statue and performed for the gathered crowds of spectators and semi-nude and nude students. The student conductor climbed atop the statue to orchestrate the band below.

Participants gathered in front of Hollis Hall shortly before midnight, shouting “I believe that we will win!” and chanting part of The White Stripes’s song, 'Seven Nation Army'. As the run finally approached, one person began counting down from five seconds, before the mass of streakers headed in a counterclockwise direction around the yard. Ivan Jara-Marquez ’23, a Crimson Design editor, said congestion early on in the lap in front of Matthews Hall resulted in chaos.

“It was a good jog,” he said, while looking for his footwear after the run. “My feet hurt a bit. I ran with flip-flops, but then I lost a flip-flop and then I lost the other flip-flop.”


The biannual event, now decades-old, involves students running at least one lap in the nude around Harvard Yard at midnight at the end of each semester’s reading period, signifying the beginning of final exams for the fall or spring term.

Conditions around midnight were humid with a light, on-and-off drizzle. This winter's Primal Scream participants ran in temperatures hovering around the high-50s.

Benjamin Chang ’23 said he was grateful his first Primal Scream occurred in what he described as optimal conditions.

“It’s beautiful. It’s perfect weather, almost 60 degrees," he said. "The rain just makes it way more fun."

A number of tourists and other spectators photographed the procession of streakers, which caused mixed feelings among the participating students. Maria V. Paredes ’20, who participated for the first time, said she was annoyed at one photographer who she said pointed his camera at her. “But, what are you going to do, I guess?” she said. “Not worth not doing it.”

Running through the final leg of the lap, one streaker swatted a spectator’s phone out of his hand into a puddle, while others made an effort to cover up when passing that spectator-heavy portion of the lap.

Jonathan C. Luo ’23 said he was not bothered by the presence of spectators, even those taking photographs.

“I kind of just tuned them out,” Luo said. “I didn’t even notice them, honestly.”

Afterward, some groups of streakers gathered in front of the John Harvard statue, taking group pictures to commemorate the event.