Back to school in Texas means one thing: Friday night football. Movies and TV shows have immortalized and popularized this unique experience. The cheerleaders, the band, the drill team, the football team, and the fans all come together one Friday a week to unify the school and community behind Texas’ most ubiquitous pastime: high school football.
Once a season, the revered homecoming game rolls around. Each Lyla Garrity hopes their Tim Riggins will sweep them off their feet and make them their date. Homecoming is more than a dance and more than a football game that honors alumni: it is a truly authentic Texas experience that epitomizes that everything really is bigger in Texas.
First, homecoming is not a day, it is a week. The week leading up to homecoming is full of pep rallies, parades, and cheerleaders decorating the houses of football players. The traditions are ripe with nostalgia and hold fast to an earlier time. Many schools have a spirit week with each day centered around a theme. No one is too cool to don their school colors this week.
Next are the pep rallies. Pep rallies in Texas rival those at small universities. And on homecoming week, some pep rallies are proceeded by a parade. Now this isn’t a small parade where just the parents line the parking lot. These parades shut down streets and divert traffic. Imagine the crowds of a Fourth of July parade mixed with the spirit of the Super Bowl parade. This is Texas and this is football season. Nothing is too extreme or extravagant. The pep rallies themselves are also huge productions. Lighting and smoke fill the gym while music from the band blares. Parents, students, and teachers fill the stands to enjoy a night of entertainment and school pride leading up to the big game.
While these traditions may seem big and over the top, nothing rivals THE Texas homecoming tradition: mums. For the uninitiated a mum is just another flower. Not in Texas and not at homecoming. Homecoming mums are a sacred tradition that at one time started with a single flower and have morphed into engineering marvels worn by girls on the Friday of homecoming.
Although they are known as mums, the flower is not the center piece; instead the flowers (no one actually only has a single mum) act as a backing to attach a whole host of gadgets and ribbons with a theme and coordinating color palette. Some of the colors are determined by grade and others just mirror the school colors. Hanging off the mums are dozens of ribbons, streamers and bells. Each one hand placed and containing charms that symbolize activities in which the wearer is involved. Some mums sport battery-powered lights and look like a small Christmas tree attached to each girl. Attached atop the flower are normally small stuffed animals symbolizing the wearer and her date to the homecoming dance. Walking down the hallway on the Friday of homecoming is both deafening and perilous with girls tripping over extra long ribbons. The actual football game is nowhere near as dangerous as a pack of girls sporting mums trying to get in and out of the car at the beginning of the school day.
Friday night: the game. Alumni, parents, and students crowd into state-of-the-art football stadiums to cheer on the home team. Alumni are honored, the band dazzles at the half-time show, and students revel in the feeling of what it is like to be part of one of the greatest Texas traditions. A king and queen are crowned on the 50 yard line, and for a moment they bask in the light of Texas royalty. After the game, the only thing left is the homecoming dance. Dresses are donned and couples awkwardly attempt to attach boutonnières while their parents hover nearby. Copious amounts of pictures memorialize the night. And as soon as it all began, the last song is played and another homecoming comes to an end. However, while homecoming is just just a night or a week, the spirit of the time expends through the remainder of the greatest time of the year: high school football season.