Football reigns supreme in Texas, and the highlight of each season is the annual homecoming game. However, the sight of young women displaying their school spirit with elaborate neck-to-ankle homecoming mums often leaves the uninitiated befuddled.
The first recorded homecoming celebration in the United States was held here in Georgetown along the banks of the San Gabriel River. Southwestern University invited alumni to “enjoy the first great Home-coming of her students” on April 21, 1909. The university’s Megaphone newspaper reported that “it is doubtful if ever such another occasion has been known in Texas.” In November of that same year, Baylor University held the first homecoming event associated with a football game, complete with a parade and a homecoming queen.
No one knows exactly when or where homecoming mums got their start, but an exploration of the Baylor Library Digital Collection gives some clues. In Baylor’s 1937 yearbook, the homecoming queen is pictured riding in the parade wearing a simple flower corsage with no ribbons attached. Chrysanthemums, as long-lasting fall flowers, were an appropriate choice for a football-season corsage. By 1939, yearbook pictures show homecoming corsages with a few short ribbons, and by 1947, the corsages began to resemble today’s more adorned homecoming mums.
By the mid-1990s, the tradition of wearing mums had faded among college coeds. However, as the saying has it, everything’s bigger in Texas. That is certainly the case for high school mums, which continue to grow in both size and popularity. Today, a young woman may receive a homecoming mum from her date, her parents, or a close friend (or sometimes all three). A girl often gives her date a smaller homecoming garter to wear on his arm.
Colorful ribbons surround the mum, which is now more likely to be artificial than real. Numerous ribbons dangle below the flower among elaborate braids and shiny trinkets. Sticker letters spell out words on the ribbons. Homecoming mums may be quite large, with multiple flowers, and require the wearer to hang the corsage around her neck on a harness to support its weight.
A recent trend is for a group of friends—high school girls, their moms, or both—to host mum-making parties. Everyone brings supplies, and friends spend time together getting crafty.
Make plans to attend the Georgetown and East View High School homecoming games this fall to see the time-honored mum tradition in action. And remember, when you see those gussied-up corsages, that it all began here—in Georgetown.