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At the stroke of midnight Wednesday, more than 100 Harvard students shed their clothes and inhibitions to take a naked lap around Harvard Yard.
Students — at varying levels of lucidity — gathered in front of Hollis Hall to begin the biannual streaking tradition, which marks the end of reading period. Primal Scream, which resumed last December after a three-semester hiatus, dates back to at least 1995 as a way for the boldest of undergraduates to let loose before finals.
Keeping with the tradition, this year’s participants carefully prepared for the race with drinks, chants, and music. The race got off to a sluggish start before the crowd recognized the sound of the Memorial Church bells as their cue to run.
Spring’s Primal Scream took place in nippy 50-degree weather, a far cry from last semester’s iteration which coincided with the first snowfall of the season.
Many students cited the stress of finals as their motivation to bare it all for the event.
“I’m dying,” Amar S. Boparai ’25 said. “Finals have been really hard.”
For Kali’inoa Maeva ’25, Primal Scream was a way to destress and take “time off to relax from all the anxieties and worries that come with finals.”
Other students were attracted to the tradition for the thrill.
“When else are you gonna go streaking through Harvard Yard? I guess, before every finals, but never again in your life,” said Margo A. Smith ’25.
Thursday’s throngs were dwarfed by last semester’s snowy streak, some students reported.
“It wasn't as good and there weren't as many people, but I still had a fun and awesome time,” Mavea said.
But this spring’s sprint had one advantage over its predecessor: The Harvard Band was present, pantless, and playing for the runners for the first time in over two years. The band was unable to attend last semester’s Primal Scream due to a scheduling conflict.
Cole Cleary ’25, a Primal Scream veteran, said he had not initially planned on participating this semester but got “taken away” by the enthusiasm of the band and onlookers.
“You could just feel the energy coming from right in front of that dorm,” Cleary said.
Other students reported similar enchanting effects.
“I feel like every semester everybody goes ‘Nah, I'm not going to do Primal Scream,’ but at the end of the day, they always end up out here,” Boparai said.
Some students criticized their peers for stopping short of full nudity — a recurring debate of great contention.
Cleary was “disappointed” when he realized his roommates had retained some articles of clothing for the run. He found it “kind of soft.”
“But you know what? Not everybody can be a winner,” he said.
Some students decried the gaggles of onlookers who remained fully clothed and recorded the runners.
Liudmila Budaragina, a tourist, said she heard about the event from a show and “thought it would be fun to go.”
Jessica J. Zhang ’25 said she “felt a little creeped out by people who come to watch naked teenagers.”
“Especially those who take flash photography,” Zhang added.
Mariam Hamdi, another spectator, said her reasons for watching the tradition are clear.
“You know, it’s to see people who have the best education doing some weird stuff. I’m very excited to see that,” Hamdi said.
—Staff writer Katherine M. Burstein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kmburstein1.
—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SellersHill.
—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at email@example.com.
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