Texas Living

Where Did Texas Homecoming Mums Come From?

By Staci Parks 9.2.19

They’re big. They’re bright. They’re a lot. But homecoming mums are a rite of passage for many Texas high schoolers. To the untrained eye (mostly non-native Texans), these giant, adorned plastic flowers might come across as gaudy (but what do they know?). Before we get too defensive, let’s take a look at the evolution of this uniquely Texan tradition.

What Is a Homecoming Mum?

At their core, Texas homecoming mums resemble their ancestor, the chrysanthemum corsage. A plastic or silk flower, attached to some form of sturdy backing, is the center from which ribbons stream and trinkets fall. And there’s only one rule: the bigger, the better.

Traditionally, boys give their homecoming dates mums as a token of affection. Although typically less elaborate, guys wear garters, a smaller version of the mum, on their arms. Gifting and creating mums has become more collaborative throughout the years, with school teams, parents, and siblings participating too.

Where Did Homecoming Mums Come From?

The popularity of mums in Texas dates back to the early 1900s, when Baylor University hosted Texas’ first recorded homecoming celebration. It started with a simple flower, the chrysanthemum. This widely grown flower is immediately recognizable with its close-clustered petals. As homecoming traditions blossomed, chrysanthemums emerged as a popular, modest choice in the 1930s because nearly everyone had access to them in post-Depression-era Texas.

Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

The Makings of a Modern-Day Homecoming Mum

It wasn’t until the ’70s that homecoming mums became more elaborate, eventually evolving into the attention-seeker they are today.

So, what makes a mum a mum? The construction of a mum is as unique as its owner. Initially, mums were simple corsages pinned to a piece of clothing. But now, mums are so embellished — and often heavy — that they’re worn around the neck.

Throughout the years, chrysanthemum blooms were replaced with artificial flowers, allowing the mum to be preserved. Modern mums can weigh up to 20 pounds and cover a person’s entire torso. The classic colorful ribbons are there, but you’ll also find stuffed animals, feather boas, cowbells, and LED lights.

Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

Homecoming Mums Are Big Business

Making mums has become a collaborative effort. In some parts of Texas, PTA members and drill team members craft mums as fundraisers for their respective organizations. From the suburbs of Dallas to the Hill Country, mum shops all across Texas are eager to participate in this long-held tradition. These stores’ shelves are filled with ribbon, feathers, and plastic trinkets — the ideal touch for a customized homecoming mum. By the time it’s completed, a customized mum can cost upward of $400, but you can cut costs by creating your own.

Don’t stop with Texas homecoming mums. Brush up on Lone Star State linguistics with this Texas slang dictionary.

© 2019 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance