Ummm, But Mum? What Is The Story Behind Homecoming Mums?

Jessica Starr
The Southside Light

The homecoming mum is nearly a legend as big as Texas and that legend has stood the test of time, or at least recent memory. But really, what's the story behind what was once a small corsage and is now an enormous accessory that has become a status symbol of choice for many high school aged girls and families? 

The word "Mum" is short for Chrysanthemums, which are a daisy-like flower that come in various forms and colors and were first introduced in the U.S. during Colonial times. 

It isn't clear as to exactly when it all started but legend has it that boys started giving a mum to his date as a corsage for homecoming as a dating gift. But now with what first started out as a simple, small flower and a few ribbons has become much more elaborate and eloquent as time has moved on. 

Most Texans who have followed High School football for years say that the elaborate decor became more pronounced in Texas in the 1970s as parents began getting into the popularity contest games of their youth. 

As time went on, homecoming mums have become enormous with decorations galore and parents will have done almost anything to make their child's decor standout.  But for traditionalists like designer Amelia Grebe, who has been making mums for years out of her Central Texas shop, bigger is not always better.  

"I put a price limit on my mums," says Grebe, the now 86 year-old homecoming veteran and legend.  "A hundred dollar bill is the most you'll spend with me and I remind mom and dad that this is for their child and not for them." 

Grebe says that for her the real pleasure is in the tradition.  

"I still have young players come in and buy their girlfriends a very modest set up and you can bet they get more love and attention than the parent bought mums," Grebe laughs. "A mum should be earned, not just given." 

But beyond the reason or rhyme of the tradition,  mum decision have included everything from the students' graduation year, high school mascot, charms, bells, ribbons and even LED lights. The most popular piece of decoration though is the teddy bear. You will see a small stuffed teddy bear on just about any homecoming mum around these days. 

And for the guys, they are never totally left out. The boys version have a mini type band that goes around their arm called the garter. But even the smaller male version will still  feature all the bells and whistles a larger mum would have.

As for how much these traditional pieces go for? That in and of itself can be mind blowing. Prices for mums can range from as low as $30 to as high as $500, depending upon their extravagance.  

As for when and where to wear the mums? Most traditionalists agree that students should not wear the mums to the homecoming dance. They are to wear them the day before at school and football game-- though there doesn't seem to be any written rule about that, either.  

So, there you have it, a little bit odd background on the traditional Texas homecoming mums.  And remember the advice of old Mrs. Grebe from up near Mexia-- it's really only all about the kids.