Each undergraduate House's unique traditions are an important part of House identity, and are weaved into the fabric of community life. Read below to learn about some of Dunster's most popular and longest-standing House traditions.
Senior Common Room Dinners
With a long history dating back to 1930, The Dunster House Senior Common Room (SCR) is as old as the House itself. The SCR consists of the Faculty Deans, House Staff, Resident and Non-Resident Tutors, and University professors, alumni, visiting scholars, and administrators. It is modeled after similar institutions at Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. Today, Dunster House students are invited to attend four annual SCR dinners, held in October, December, February, and April. These events provide Dunster students valuable opportunities to meet and learn from members of the Harvard community at various stages of their academic and professional careers. One of the highlights of the year is the annual “Red Tie Dinner,” where guests make bets with one another based on predictions for the year ahead. Red Tie Dinner bets date back to the 1930s and touch upon many historical subjects such as WWII and presidential elections.
Each year Dunster hosts a special multi-course dinner in the beautiful House dining hall for each of its three academic classes. The sophomore dinner is typically held in September, the Junior Dinner in February/March, and the Senior Dinner in May, just before Commencement. Dunsterites always enjoy these chances to experience fine dining with the rest of their class (without having to split the bill at the end of the night)!
Dunster hosts a formal faculty-student dinner once each fall and spring in the dining hall. These are largely popular events wherein Dunsterites of all class years invite a favorite faculty member to share in an evening of excellent food and wide-ranging conversation. The dinners are often a highlight of the semester for faculty as well as for students, and are a long-standing tradition in the House.
The House hosts several outings each year including a Boston Harbor Cruise for the sophomore class in early September, an apple picking outing in October, and a snowtubing outing to Nashoba Valley in February. These small group outings have often been a favorite among students looking to spend some time off-campus while enjoying time with friends and making new connections in the House.
Dunster has a longstanding tradition of showcasing the musical talents of its students, staff, and alums in the beautiful House Library. Today, Dunster hosts vocal and chamber music concerts, solo recitals, small orchestral performances, and poetry readings in this space about once a month. These events encourage Dunsterites to practice and develop their art with one another while performing for friends and Housemates. For more on music and arts programming at Dunster, please visit the Arts and Music page.
Each month the Faculty Deans invite all Dunsterites to their residence for delicious treats prepared by Dunster's legendary Culinary Team. From pies and apple cider in the fall to Valentine’s Day sweets in wintertime and mocktails in the spring, Open Houses bring about an air of camaraderie that can’t be beat. If you’re a Dunsterite who's a fan of cookies, ice cream, pies, and a cozy fireplace to match, you absolutely can’t miss it! For more on the monthly Open Houses, visit the Culinary Team page.
Courtyard S'mores and Fireside Study Breaks
Dunster hosts s’mores in the courtyard when the weather permits, or special treats by the fireplace in the dining hall when it doesn't, for all students to enjoy about once a month. Dunsterites always enjoy these fun, informal opportunities to warm up and by the fire while catching up with fellow students and staff.
Every October the Dunster HoCo organizes an annual hoedown in the Dunster courtyard, complete with music, games, food, and a petting zoo for all students to enjoy while celebrating the arrival of fall. In the past the event has included a bouncy castle, popcorn machine, inflatable jousting ring, and live music. Keep an eye out for the event and don't miss your chance to join in the fun!
Each Halloween the House and HoCo host an annual pumpkin carving event in the dining hall. Students are first provided pumpkin carving tools, candy (of course), flavored popcorn, and apple cider, and then set off to demonstrate their artistic skills by displaying their prized pumpkins to the House. Afterward, the pumpkins proudly decorate the dining hall to keep the halloween festivities going through the holiday season.
Holiday Dinner & Decorating
In early December HoCo hosts a winter wonderland decoration celebration, when Dunsterites decorate the dining Hall Holiday tree, make moose ornaments, and hang holiday lights. Shortly after, the House hosts a Holiday Dinner in the newly decorated dining Hall with traditional holiday food and drink including latkes, egg nog, apple cider, cornbread stuffing, and much more. We encourage Dunster students to take a break from studying and enjoy the holiday cheer with the Dunster House family!
Dunster has held a special performance of George Frederic Handel's Messiah Sing for the past 48 years in its beautiful dining hall. This annual December performance features Harvard student soloists, the Harvard Bach Society Orchestra, and guest conductor Edwin Jones of the Memorial church. The event provides a wonderful opportunity for members of the Harvard, Cambridge, and greater Boston communities to share in an evening of music and celebration. Scores of the music will be available with the audience singing the most popular choruses. We welcome all to join us for this special Dunster House tradition!
Winter & Spring Formals
To celebrate the end of the fall and spring semesters, Dunster HoCo organizes a House-wide formal. In early December, students trade in their flannel and sweatpants for cocktail attire and head to the Faculty Dean residence for a pre-formal champagne reception. It's then off to Boston for the annual dance just before winter break. In the spring, Dunsterites enjoy a celebration in the courtyard under a beautiful tent, accompanied by decorative lights, a hardwood dance floor, and live music. At both events, students celebrate the end of classes, postpone studying for finals, and party in-style.
A beloved Harvard tradition, Housing Day marks the moment rising freshmen are assigned to an upperclassman House where they will spend their next three undergraduate years. The festivities begin the night before in Dunster, when students design spirited signs that say, “Roll Moose!” and “We’re Dunster, hear us make whatever sound a moose makes!” Then, at daybreak, Dunsterites gather in the dining hall and take to the Yard complete with Moose suit, t-shirts, and Dunster flags to induct the Freshmeese into the best House on campus! The evening is then filled with activities designed to introduce freshmen to their new Dunster community, including an ice cream bash, scavenger hunt, and stein club organized by Dunster HoCo.
Spring Goat + Roast
The Dunster House Goat Roast has a long history that originated in 1988, when a Dunster House Resident Tutor in Anthropology aimed to teach students how to skin an animal with stone tools. The modern-day version, the Goat + Roast, features a petting zoo with live goats, a barbecue, a bouncy house, and a wide assortment of food and games. This is a consistently popular Dunster House tradition, where students and staff gather to enjoy the food, games, and company of friends. Keep an eye out for this annual spring event and don't miss it!
Immediately following the morning Commencement exercises, Dunster welcomes over 1,600 Dunster students, staff, families, and friends to its beautiful couryard for the Senior Diploma Ceremony. This is the long awaited moment when Dunster staff congratulate the senior class as, one-by-one, they ascend the stage to receive their diplomas at the last Dunster House tradition of their college careers. As former Resident Tutor Erica Brown Soto described it, “One of my very favorite traditions in Dunster is that all of the Tutors line up to give one last congratulations to the seniors as they approach the stage to accept their diplomas. It’s a great chance for us to offer handshakes and hugs to every member of the senior class, and since I always feel sad knowing those familiar faces will be leaving the House, I at least look forward to the chance to see every one of them one last time before they go.”
After the ceremony concludes, students gather with family and friends to eat lunch in the House, take last-minute photos, and enjoy their remaining hour or two as Dunster House residents.
More information about Commencement can be found on the Commencement Office webpage. Further details about the Dunster Commencement Ceremony, including logistics and scheduling, are communicated to students directly via email in the weeks leading up to Commencement.