When it comes to All-American school functions, homecoming is at the top of the list. Full of tradition and camaraderie, homecoming is an event that invokes a feeling of nostalgia that can’t be matched. But why do we have homecoming in the first place? Below, we’re sharing the history behind homecoming and the customs that make this annual event a favorite time of year across the country.
What is Homecoming?
Traditionally, homecoming is a time for students who have graduated to come home to campus, visit with old friends, and share stories of school days. While the general idea is simple, homecoming celebrations can vary greatly from school to school.
At most schools, homecoming celebrations are centered around a football game. The activities planned before and after the game are a time for current and former students to come together and build up school spirit. Homecoming might take place on a single day, or it might feature big and elaborate multi-day events.
Why Do We Have Homecoming?
Many schools have tried to lay claim as the originators of homecoming, but most sources agree that the event was born at the University of Missouri in 1911. Alumni of the university were encouraged by Chester L. Brewer, Director of Athletics, to come home to their alma mater and attend the first football game on a new field, against the University of Kansas. While the game ended in a tie, over 10,000 alumni attended and a tradition was born.
The idea of a homecoming quickly caught on and became popular throughout the US in the 1920s. Since then, both colleges and high schools have developed their own unique traditions. Parades, dances, and homecoming courts all came about during this time.
Today’s Homecoming Traditions
While each school sets their own unique schedule of events for their homecoming celebration, there are some traditions that are common to most homecomings.
Pep rallies are the perfect time for students to come together and get pumped up for the upcoming activities. Meant to build up the energy and excitement, pep rallies are led by the school’s cheerleaders to rally around and support the sports team.
Another event just for current students at the school, a homecoming dance usually takes place the weekend before a parade and sporting event. Dress codes vary based on school traditions, but most homecoming dances are semi-formal.
Consisting of a king and queen, along with other royal members, the homecoming court is crowned early in the schedule of homecoming events. Many schools take the tradition very seriously and competition can be fierce as students campaign to become the faces of the event. At the University of Pittsburgh, for example, the process of choosing candidates and voting on members of the homecoming court takes weeks.
The homecoming parade will often feature the school’s marching band, mascot, and dance team. You’ll spot the members of the homecoming court as well. School organizations, often along with local businesses, create floats that fit the parade theme. It’s the ultimate celebration of school pride.
Before a homecoming football game, you’ll find all of the team’s supporters gathered in a parking lot for a fun and rowdy celebration. The more elaborate tailgates include everything from grills to outdoor games to live music.
A big sporting event is the main event of homecoming celebrations. Most often, this is a football game, attended by current students, alumni (including former players that moved on to the pros), faculty, and members of the community. This is the moment the crowd has been waiting for and celebrating a win just keeps the excitement going.
Homecoming lives on today as an opportunity for alumni to come home, reminisce, and show support for their former school. With so many events on the schedule, homecoming has become an annual tradition with something for everyone.