Homecoming 101

When I first moved to Houston in July 2017 and started to make friends, I started to hear talk about “Homecoming.” I had heard about Homecoming from movies and TV, but had always assumed it was just another name for Prom.

I could not have been more wrong! 

My first clue about Homecoming :: the repeated mention of the word “mum.” I wondered, why are so many people using the British term for mother? Next, I saw strange things that looked to me like horse race ribbons popping up in all the grocery stores. Is this for cheerleading? Is there a dog show in town? I was stymied. Then, I overheard mothers talking about how much they were shelling out for their son’s homecoming date and other mothers conspiring to stop their sons from showering for the first six weeks of school to avoid the whole affair. Should I start a Homecoming savings account, I pondered. Lastly, I saw girls shopping for homecoming dresses and overalls – wait, what?!

Homecoming 101. A photograph of nine smiling teenagers wearing mums and garters. Logo: Houston moms blog. Homecoming was bewildering and, frankly, overwhelming until I had the good fortune of attending the Tompkins High School PTSA presentation on “Homecoming 101” and finally got the low-down on this crazy Texas tradition. With their permission, I share with you now the basics about homecoming for all the other mothers out there who are not from Houston and have no idea what the heck is going on.

Homecoming is not Prom

Homecoming and Prom are entirely distinct and Homecoming in Texas is its own special set of traditions that gives new meaning to “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” Prom is short for “promenade” and happens at the end of the school year to celebrate graduating seniors. It is a semi-formal dance and a great big expensive to-do with, as I learned, girls in Texas traditionally wearing long gowns and boys wearing suits or tuxes. There is usually a Prom king and queen and limos and dinners. {Side note:: Pretty in Pink was all about Prom, as was Carrie.}

Homecoming happens at the beginning of the year over the course of two days and celebrates the start of football season. Okay, Texas and football – it’s starting to come together. Homecoming week involves themed spirit days culminating in a pep rally on Friday complete with marching band, color guard, the whole nine yards. And most importantly, Friday is the day students wear their mums.

The Homecoming Mum

Mum is short for chrysanthemum but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a simple corsage. Oh no no no. See Exhibit A:

Four smiling teenage girls wearing elaborate mums created with feathers, ribbons, and beads.
Everything. Is. Bigger. In. Texas.

Of course, not all Homecoming mums are this elaborate but you can basically go as simple or as fancy as you like – everything but whistles may adorn the mum. Literally. You can DIY a mum, commission someone to make them, purchase from the store {yes, the grocery store; I wasn’t seeing things} and some schools like Tompkins even have a “Mum Factory” with mums and parts available for purchase and proceeds going to support the PTSA. The silk mums are color-coded in most schools. Seniors get to wear gold, juniors wear silver, sophomores and freshmen wear school colours.

What about the boys?

The boys wear a smaller version of the mum called a garter around their upper arm. Like the girls’ mums, these can be simple or elaborate and can be purchased or homemade. See Exhibit B:

A teenage boy and girl. The boys garter is created from ribbon and stuffed animals. The girls mum matches his but is also created with feathers.

What about the others?

If your kid doesn’t fall neatly into the girl or boy category, rest assured that they can partake or not of the mums or garters with their friends or dates to whatever degree they feel comfortable. This is an advantage of having a woke generation.

Now, what would be a reasonable price to pay for these glorious creations? Tompkins PTSA says you can expect to spend between $50 to $200 dollars BUT depending on the piece, it can be re-used in subsequent years.

Nine smiling teenagers wearing garters and mums.

Essential Homecoming traditions

So, students wear their mums and garters to school on Friday and later that night to the first football game of the season, the homecoming game. That’s a long time to be walking around with a 5-lb accessory, amiright? That’s why the overalls tradition began:: to help hold up the Homecoming mums.

A teenage girl wearing overalls. One pants leg contains the text O T H S. The other contains the text 2022.
Overalls are actually a very practical homecoming tradition.

You can decorate your overalls as desired and I personally would thrift or swap to score a pair! Each year, you add to the decorations which means you finish high school with a pretty cool memento.

So Friday is all about the mums and the game. Oh, and dinner before the game. Oh, and Homecoming king and queen are announced at half time of the game not during the dance as with prom.

Saturday is all about the Homecoming Dance which, like prom, is a semi-formal event though the girls traditionally wear a shorter dress to Homecoming. Girls wear a corsage and boys wear a boutonniere to the dance and these are best ordered well in advance. Many students have dinner before the dance and/or attend an after-party {though the dance ends at 11pm, ah the energy of youth!}. The Tompkins PTSA advised to book appointments early for things like hair and nails, but it is perfectly fine to just get ready at home. Dinner can be a potluck, a picnic, catered, or a fancy meal out – anything goes.

We have heard of “prom-posals” and, yes, “hoco proposals” are also a thing and can be a simple pun or an elaborate ruse depending on your kids.

A six-pack of A & W with a note with the text: Piper, I would be soda-lighted if you went to homecoming with me. Garrett.
Frankly, I wouldn’t mind this level of commitment from my husband asking me out on a date.
Two photographs. Left: A teenage girl holds an elaborate mum and hands a garter to a teenage boy. Right: The two pose for the camera with the girl wearing the mum and the boy wearing the garter.
Some students also celebrate exchanging their mums.

Who pays for what?

This was the slide we were all waiting for, as we silently tallied up all the expenses involved in homecoming. This can vary depending on whether your student goes with a date or in a group but the general gist is this:

If your student has a date, the guy pays for:

  • Football tickets and dinner {if they go to dinner before the game}
  • Girl’s mum
  • Dance tickets
  • Corsage
  • Dinner before the dance
  • Half the cost of the after party

The girl pays for::

  • Guy’s garter
  • Boutonniere
  • Pictures for both the guy and the girl
  • Half the cost of the after party

Of course, none of this is expected so no, we don’t have to keep our sons from showering to save some money {not that I was seriously considering it or anything.*     *I was}. Rather, this is a good opportunity to talk with your child, their date, and their date’s parents to come up with a mutually-agreeable plan.

Six teenage girls and four teenage boys all in formalwear.

Does my child HAVE to go to Homecoming?

The most assuring part of the Tompkins PTSA Homecoming 101 presentation was that there is no right or wrong way to participate in Homecoming. Your student may go with a date, may go in a group, may go with some couples and some singles, or may not go at all. They make take part in some or all of the Texas traditions. They have four years and four opportunities for Homecoming. If it’s overwhelming for me parents, it might be overwhelming for students too, especially in their freshman year. BUT Homecoming is a unique Texas tradition and can be tons of fun!

What do you say about Homecoming in Texas – yay or nay?!

A huge Texan THANK YOU to the Tompkins High School PTSA for sharing their information and photographs with Houston Moms Blog.

Pin this post and be sure to follow Houston Moms Blog on Pinterest!Homecoming 101. A photograph of five smiling teenagers wearing mums and garters. Logo: Houston moms blog.


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