Homecoming is the tradition of welcoming back former students and
members and celebrating an organization's existence. It is a tradition
in many high schools, colleges, and churches in the
United States and
1 United States
1.2.5 Dress-up days
1.2.6 Pep Rallies
1.2.7 Alumni Band
1.2.8 Mums and Garters
1.4 Smaller school homecomings
3 Church homecomings
4 See also
Homecoming is an annual tradition in the United States. People, towns,
high schools, and colleges come together, usually in late September or
early October, to welcome back alumni and former residents. It is
built around a central event, such as a banquet or dance and, most
often, a game of American football, or, on occasion, basketball, ice
hockey, or soccer. When celebrated by schools, the activities vary
widely. However, they usually consist of a football game played on a
school's home football field, activities for students and alumni, a
parade featuring the school's choir, marching band, and sports teams,
and the coronation of a homecoming queen (and at many schools, a
homecoming king). A dance commonly follows the game or the day
following the game. When attached to a football game, homecoming
traditionally occurs on the team's return from the longest road trip
of the season. The game itself, whether it be football or another
sport, will typically feature the home team playing a considerably
weaker opponent. The game is supposed to be an "easy win" and thus
weaker schools will sometimes play lower division schools.
1911 Kansas vs. Missouri football game
1911 Kansas vs. Missouri football game is one of several claimed
to be the first college football homecoming game.
The tradition of homecoming has its origin in alumni football games
held at colleges and universities since the 19th century. Many schools
including Baylor, Southwestern, Illinois, and Missouri have
made claims that they held the first modern homecoming. The NCAA,
Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy!, and references from the American TV drama
NCIS give the title to the University of Missouri's 1911 football game
during which alumni were encouraged to attend. It was the first annual
homecoming centered on a parade and a football game.
In 1891, the Missouri Tigers first faced off against the Kansas
Jayhawks in the first installment of the Border War, which was also
the oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi River
until the teams stopped playing each other in 2012. The intense
rivalry originally took place at neutral sites, usually in Kansas
City, Missouri, until a new conference regulation was announced that
required intercollegiate football games to be played on collegiate
campuses. To renew excitement in the rivalry, ensure adequate
attendance at the new location, and celebrate the first meeting of the
two teams on the Mizzou campus in Columbia, Missouri, Mizzou Athletic
Chester Brewer invited all alumni to "come home" for the game
in 1911. Along with the football game, the celebration included a
parade and spirit rally with bonfire. The event was a success, with
nearly 10,000 alumni coming home to take part in the celebration and
watch the Tigers and Jayhawks play to a 3–3 tie. The Missouri annual
homecoming, with its parade and spirit rally centered on a large
football game is the model that has gone on to take hold at colleges
and high schools across the United States.
At least two collegiate homecoming celebrations predate the University
of Missouri football game homecoming event: Southwestern University,
in Georgetown, TX and Baylor University, in Waco, TX. By multiple
historical accounts, Southwestern held the first homecoming on record
on Wednesday, April 21, 1909 in San Gabriel Park. Former students
raised funds, provided homes, prepared and served a barbecue supper,
and decorated the town buildings. Members of the senior class waited
Northern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University has one of the longest-celebrated
homecoming traditions in the country. The alumni football game played
on Oct. 10, 1903, began NIU's homecoming tradition.
Baylor's homecoming history dates back to November 1909 and included a
parade, reunion parties, and an afternoon football game (the final
game of the 1909 season), a tradition that continued and celebrated
its 100th anniversary in 2009. There was a gap between 1910 and
1915 when there was no homecoming event, however there has been
continuity since 1915. The University of Illinois at
Urbana–Champaign claims to have first held a homecoming event in
1910, celebrating the 100th anniversary in 2010. This event was held
annually except for the 1918 season.
East LA Classic
East LA Classic
Halftime show the homecoming football game. The
Classic is one of the most highly acclaimed and attended high-school
football games west of the
Mississippi River and has taken place since
The homecoming court is a representative group of students that, in a
coeducational institution, consists of a king and queen, and possibly
prince(s) and princess(es). In a single-sex institution, the
homecoming court will usually consist of only a king and a prince (for
an all-male school) or a queen and a princess (for an all-female
school), although some schools may choose to join with single-gender
schools of the other gender to elect the homecoming court jointly.
A young couple pinning the corsage on before homecoming.
Generally, the king and queen are students completing their final
years of study at their school (also called “seniors”), while the
prince and princess are underclassmen, often with a prince/princess
for each grade. Recently, some high schools have chosen to add
categories, such as duke and duchess, to extend the representation of
students to include a category in which students with special needs
are elected. In high school, 17- or 18-year-old students in their
final year are represented by a king or queen; in college, students
who are completing their final year of study, usually between 21 and
23 years old.
Local rules determine when the homecoming king and queen are crowned.
Sometimes, the big announcement comes at a pep rally, school assembly,
or public ceremony one or more days before the football game. Other
schools crown their royalty at the homecoming football game, a dance,
or other school event.
Often, the previous year's king and queen are invited back to crown
their successors. If they are absent for whatever reason, someone
else—usually, another previous king or queen, a popular teacher, or
other designated person—will perform those duties. Usually, the
queen is crowned first, followed by the king. The crowning method also
varies by school.
Homecoming court members who are not crowned king or queen are often
called escorts or royalty. They are often expected to participate in
the week's activities as well. At some schools, a homecoming
prince/princess, duke/duchess, etc. (often underclassmen nominated by
their classmates) are crowned along with the king and queen;
sometimes, middle school and junior high students may partake in the
high school activities.
The 2014 homecoming court at Texas A&M University–Commerce
Classmates traditionally nominate students who have done a lot to
contribute to their school, then students vote for members of the
court from the nominees. Once the homecoming court candidates are
announced, the entire student body votes for the queen and king. The
voting is often conducted by secret ballot, but other methods may also
be used by certain schools.
Homecoming parade at Texas A&M University–Commerce in 2013
Many homecoming celebrations include a parade. Students often select
the grand marshal based on a history of service and support to the
school and community. The parade includes the school's marching band
and different school organizations’ floats created by the classes
and organizations and most of the sports get a chance to be in the
parade. Every class prepares a float which corresponds with the
homecoming theme or related theme of school spirit as assign by school
administrators. In addition, the homecoming court takes part in the
parade, often riding together in one or more convertibles as part of
the parade. Community civic organizations and businesses, area fire
departments, and alumni groups often participate as well. The parade
is often part of a series of activities scheduled for that specific
day, which can also include a pep rally, bonfire, snake dance, and
other activities for students and alumni.
Homecoming tailgate at Texas A&M University–Commerce in 2014
At most major colleges and universities, the football game and
preceding tailgate party are the most widely recognized and heavily
attended events of the week. Alumni gather from all around the world
to return to their alma mater, reconnect with one another, and take
part in the festivities. Students, alumni, businesses, and members of
the community set up tents in parking lots, fields, and streets near
the stadium to cook food, play games, socialize, binge drink, and even
enjoy live music in many instances. These celebrations often last
straight through the game for those who do not have tickets but still
come to take part in the socializing and excitement of the homecoming
atmosphere. Most tents even include television or radio feeds of the
game for those without tickets.
Sometimes during the school week, a picnic can occur. The picnic is
very similar to the tailgate party, but it occurs after school or
during the school's lunch period.
Throughout the week, many schools (particularly high schools) engage
in special dress-up days, sometimes called "Spirit Week", where
students are allowed to wear clothing suitable to the theme (e.g., 80s
day, toga day, roll out of bed day, cowboy day, nerd day, pirate day,
Rat Pack Day, flannel Friday, What-not-to-wear Wednesday) leading to
the homecoming. Students traditionally wear clothing with their
school's name, or clothing and makeup of their school's colors on
Many schools hold a rally during homecoming week, often one or more
nights before the game. The events vary, but may include skits, games,
introduction of the homecoming court (and coronation of the king and
queen if that is the school's tradition), and comments from the
football players or coach about the upcoming game.
At some schools, the homecoming rally ends with a bonfire (in which
old wood structures, the rival school's memorabilia and other items
are burned in a controlled fire.) Many colleges and high schools no
longer hold bonfires because of accidents that have occurred
surrounding these events in the past. The most well known accident
took place in 1999, when 12 students were killed and 27 others were
injured at Texas A&M University when a 40-foot-tall (12 m)
pile of logs that had been assembled for a bonfire collapsed.
However, this incident was not associated with homecoming—A&M is
one of the few schools that does not organize a homecoming, although
it has many unique traditions. The bonfire was associated with the
annual rivalry game between A&M and the University of Texas.
The alumni band consists of former college and university band members
who return for homecoming to perform with the current marching band
(usually made up from recent graduates to members who graduated years
or decades before) either during halftime as a full band or a featured
section, e.g. the trumpet section or the tubas and drumline squads, as
well as performing with the current band during the post game concert.
Mums and Garters
High schools in the south of the United States, especially in Texas,
often have a tradition of the girls wearing "mums" and boys wearing
"garters" to the
Homecoming football game. Mums usually consist of
artificial chrysanthemums (real chrysanthemums were originally used)
surrounded by decorated floor-length ribbon and little trinkets. The
tradition is that the boys create a personalized mum in their school
colors, making white and silver for seniors only, for their date.
Girls make garters for their date which are similar to mums but
shorter and worn on the boy's arm. The size of the mums and garters
tend to grow in proportion to the grade that the receiver is in. In
the 1980s, mums were usually a maximum of three chrysanthemums and a
few ribbons and only worn by those on the homecoming court (i.e., the
prince or princess), but, as the years have gone by, the size and
expectation of mums have increased, and have become more elaborate,
being worn by almost all of the students. Depending on the school,
mums can get quite competitive, expensive, and drastically bigger than
they previously were intended to be. Different items are also placed
on mums than there previously were, such as LEDs, bubble containers,
cow bells, feather boas, stuffed animals of all sizes, etc. They now
sometimes act like scrapbooks made of ribbon and even contain passages
and photos of the mum/garter receiver and their date. The detail,
size, and price usually varies depending on the school, town, and
couple. The tradition is to make the mum and garter after the couple
is asked to homecoming, and exchange them on the night of the
homecoming game and wear it throughout tailgating and the game.
Couples often take group pictures with their mums and garters the
evening of or the evening before the homecoming game to showcase them.
In cases where students go to separate schools, the students present
their date with a mum/garter that represents the school that their
date attends. It is common to incorporate their date's home school in
some way, e.g. a single ribbon with the other school’s emblem and
the date's initials.
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The homecoming dance—usually the culminating event of the week (for
high schools)—is a formal or informal event, either at the school or
an off-campus location. The venue is decorated, and either a disc
jockey or band is hired to play music. In many ways, it is a fall
Homecoming dances could be informal as well just like standard
school dances. At high schools, the homecoming dances are sometimes
held in the high school gymnasium or outside in a large field.
Homecoming dance attire is less formal than prom. Females generally
wear knee length dresses with their hair down, and males generally
wear a tucked in dress shirt with pants. At prom, females generally
wear a more formal gown that goes to the ground with hair up, and
males wear suits and tuxedos.
Since most colleges are too large to facilitate a campus-wide dance,
these events are usually handled instead by student organizations such
as fraternities, sororities, and residential colleges. Because
football and alumni events are the focal points of collegiate
homecoming, dances often take place during a different week when
schedules are more permitting, or not at all.
At the high school level, students generally compete by grade level in
events such as the spirit days, parade floats, and powder puff
football. The competition at the collegiate level is mainly between
Greek-letter organizations and, to a lesser degree, residence halls.
At most larger schools, fraternities and sororities compete on parade
floats, house decorations, skits, talent competitions, and even
service events such as blood drives or food drives. Sometimes on
coronation night, some schools have games that they play between
classes. Such events include the pyramid, the 3 legged race, the pop
chug, and tug of war.
Smaller school homecomings
While most schools schedule their homecoming activities around
football, smaller schools that do not field a football team may plan
the annual event at another time of the year. In these instances,
basketball, ice hockey or soccer serves as the "big game" for students
and alumni. Often in smaller towns with smaller populations, the
parade is omitted.
At schools without athletic programs, the centerpiece event is usually
a banquet, where alumni are recognized. This format is also used for
alumni events of high schools that have either closed or consolidated
with other high schools; the high school classes continue to meet and
celebrate their years at their now-defunct alma mater. In other cases,
alumni of closed schools will participate with the consolidated
school's homecoming, where special recognition is often given for
alumni of the once-separate schools.
In some parts of the country, high school basketball has gained a
homecoming celebration of its own. Often referred to as winter
homecoming, hoopcoming, coronation, snowcoming, "Colors Day," or
courtwarming (the latter is especially prominent in parts of
Missouri), it usually includes rallies, dress-up days, special
dinners, king and queen coronations, and other winter-friendly
activities typically associated with football homecoming.
Canadian homecoming weekends are often centred on a football game.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, communities have a "Come Home Year"
where people who have moved away from their town come back from across
Canada. In 2000, there was a provincial "Come Home Year", where many
people came back to visit their various communities.
Homecomings largely only exist among high schools in eastern Canada,
and are uncommon at that. Newmarket High School, London South
Banting Memorial High School and Earl Haig
Secondary School are examples of known schools in Ontario to arrange
Canada College also has a longstanding homecoming
tradition, although the event is referred to as "A-Day" (Association
The term "homecoming" can also refer to the special services conducted
by some religious congregations, particularly by many smaller American
Protestant churches, to celebrate church heritage and welcome back
former members or pastors. They are often held annually, but are
sometimes held as one-time-only events, to celebrate the occasion.
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