In 1992, my young husband and I spent a week in Ireland. It exceeded every expectation I had and the people were so friendly. Discussions always turned to where we were from, followed by comments about Dallas (the tv show), John F Kennedy and horses. Texas has a world wide reputation and we are a proud people, even of our stranger traditions, like The Texas Homecoming Mum.
To understand the modern homecoming mum we have to go back to the origins, back to college football games, another Texas institution. College homecoming games originated in the very early years of the twentieth century. These special football games were played in honor of returning alumni, alumna and residents. The game was surrounded with parades, bonfires, dances and even royalty. Parades and dances naturally meant the incorporation of flowers. The chrysanthemum blooms in the Fall, making it perfect for colorful homecoming corsages. "Mum" corsages were given as gifts by young men to their homecoming dates. In Texas, an enterprising florist decided to add long, school-color ribbons to the corsage and The Texas Mum was born. In looking at some Baylor University year books, I can see mums on some of the young ladies dating back to 1940.
High schools quickly adapted the traditional homecoming game from colleges along with the mum corsage. My mother graduated from Brazosport High School in 1966. She has told me that she doesn't remember homecoming mums being a thing, but I have a photo of her in 8th grade (so 1960-ish) wearing what sure looks like a mum to me!
I graduated in 1988 from Alvin High School. I was known as "the girl in the combat boots" and would not have been caught dead wearing a mum. Oh! the Irony! I distinctly remember homecoming mums being fairly large by this time because multiple flowers were being used and girls were getting multiple mum corsages from boyfriends, family and friends. They were still fresh chrysanthemums and you could only get them from a florist. Mum flowers were embellished with pipe cleaner letters and numbers, glitter and glue words on the ribbon, rabbits' feet (for luck,) a few dangly footballs and lots of bells. The longer and noisier, the better!
By the 1990's fresh flower mums were a thing of the past. Girls wanted to hang their mums on the wall and old dead flowers just didn't cut it anymore. Enter the silk chrysanthemum and the DIY mum makers. Teenage fashion being what it is and let's face it, a little bit of competition, homecoming mums have bloomed into what we know as the modern homecoming mum. Some are "regular size" and some are huge, but all are special and unique. Homecoming mums celebrate school spirit and the personality of the wearer. Mums no longer have to be gifts from a date. I encourage young ladies to get their mum and get the mum of their dreams.