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Harvard Primal Scream 2023

A peculiar biannual tradition when students run naked around the Harvard Yard before finals begin

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The event called Primal Scream happens at midnight on the day preceding the final exams. As the moment approaches, palpable buzz fills the Harvard Yard. Students gather at the central quad in various states of undress with occasional elements of clothing from towels and capes to gym shorts and flags. The scent of alcohol is in the air. At midnight sharp, the cheerful screaming crowd of nude students runs a lap around the Yard.

The tradition can be observed in May or in December. Sometimes tourists and community members come to watch. The event is greeted with a sort of nostalgic indulgence, and even Harvard University and the police don’t intervene. The future leaders of tomorrow need to blow off some steam before the most stressful time of their studies.

It all started in the 1960s when students would gather in the Yard or simply open their windows to yell for about ten minutes. It was a tradition to release stress. By the 1990s, students added the streaking aspect to the tradition, still meant to let off steam. If you come to witness this act of freedom, please, treat the participants with respect and think twice before taking photos or shooting a video.

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Last updated: by Olha Savych