An American Tradition: Homecoming Rituals Explained
Outside of the United States and certain territories in Canada, homecoming is fairly unknown. For most of us familiar with the holiday, the origin of the tradition is typically unknown, as well. Many traditions we grow up with are blindly accepted or rarely explored beyond the activities we are introduced to in the natural course of things. Homecoming football games, dances and parades aren't unfamiliar to us, though we don't usually think about how they came to be. As homecoming season gets underway, learn about some of the popular events and the stranger side of things with these traditions and rituals explained.
Founded By Football
The homecoming tradition can be traced back to football. The idea of homecoming was built around the game. Many colleges and universities claim to have held the first homecoming football game. However, while schools like Southwestern, Baylor University or Northern Illinois may have celebrated certain homecoming rituals and played a football game, it's generally accepted that the model for the current homecoming tradition is owned by the University of Missouri. Trying to reignite the Border War with rival University of Kansas, alumni were invited home, and the game was preceded by a parade and a pep rally.
One of the biggest events during homecoming is the election of the homecoming court and the crowning of the king and queen. The homecoming court participates in a variety of activities on the homecoming schedule, while the king and queen are most often announced at the pep rally and featured during the halftime celebration at the football game. Many people don't know the detailed requirements that some schools have for electing their royalty. Where in high school a king and queen are typically elected based on a simple voting system, most colleges require the nominees to meet strict academic standards, show a proven record of community involvement and extracurricular activities, and even submit essays to argue why they should be considered.
Pep Rally Purposes
The pep rally is as old as homecoming itself, but it can be one of the most unpredictable events on the homecoming calendar. Because the purpose of the pep rally is to honor and support the football team in their upcoming game, the success of the rally often depends on the success of the team so far in the season, the potential for success against their opponent, and the historic strength of the football program. Pep rallies are typically better at the university level, given that there are more resources to support the featured entertainment, as well as an overall sense of community and tradition that is widely supported by the students who have elected to become part of that community rather than being compelled to be there.
There's a big difference between high school homecoming and homecoming in college. There's usually no homecoming dance once you get to college (though some of the smaller schools are fond of keeping with the tradition), and the bigger the university, the more likely you are to find some strange activities. For example, the University of Central Florida kicks off the action with a "Spirit Splash" in which students disregard their fleece-lined socks and treat the main fountain in the middle of campus like a giant pool. Virginia Tech gets the whole campus into the football spirit by running the game ball around campus until it gets to the field for the opening kickoff, while the freshman class at Dartmouth runs around a gigantic bonfire, the number of laps they have to run based on their expected graduation year (hats off to the class of '99).
Homecoming is the perfect time to connect with family and take part in some fun traditions. It's also right in the heart of the fall season. Prepare for the fall holiday schedule with The Lakeside Collection. We have everything you need from sleepover games for kids to keep them busy while you visit your alma mater to Thanksgiving dining decor for your family dinner.