A real Texas Homecoming.

I’m not sure what could be more intimidating.

Sure, it sounds innocuous enough, but, to the uninitiated, the Texas tradition can be rather overwhelming.

But it’s not the size or importance of the dance that’s surprising. True to form, the state embraces the custom with fervor foreign to me. (But, after the lax, almost apathetic approach to Country Day dances, such contrast was inevitable.)

No, this one really came out of left field, and, frankly, it should have stayed there.

Enter: The Homecoming Mum—a corsage on steroids emblazoned with everything from teddy bears to cowbells trailing yards of ribbon.

Picture the Kentucky Derby champion—that’s right, the horse—standing in the winner’s circle covered in an apron of roses. Now, substitute ribbons and trinkets for the roses and school hallways for the grandstand.

I’m not making this up. I’ve been repeatedly assured that this gargantuan flower is, in fact, a legitimate tradition in The Lone Star State, and the majority of my classmates—of the girls, at least—haven’t stopped raving about them.

The custom dates back to the mid-1900s, but back then it was a simple real chrysanthemum flower or “mum” given by a boy to his date. In true Texas form, the traditional gesture has morphed into monumental, over-the-top displays of cardboard-mounted silk mums festooned with flowing ribbons, stuffed animals and everything from key chains to cowbells.

These wild, mammoth blooms have, apparently, become a badge of honor and status in some schools. Competition among girls to see who gets the biggest and best mum has sparked what’s been described by the Houston Press blog as “an arms race gone mad.”

The most ostentatious of mums  can cost upwards of $500 and are so large it’s astonishing they can be worn at all, let alone all day at school, to the football game and again after the Homecoming dance.

So you can imagine my relief at John Cooper’s restrained approach to the custom. The administration is testing the feasibility of a “real” Homecoming to complement the school’s fledgling football team, but has kept a relatively tight handle on the festivities.

Cooper mums cost a mere $60, and garters (the smaller male version worn on the bicep) are only $35.

They’re school colors (green and white for seniors; green and black for underclassmen) and conservative at roughly 3 feet.

The various sports-themed key chain and sticker add-ons seem down right tasteful in comparison to some of the more gaudy displays I’ve seen in photos from other schools. And, I must admit that the optional plush dragon (our mascot) is rather adorable.

So I can’t say for sure how the end of the month will play out, but, even as I try to embrace the Texan tradition, it’s definitely hard to see myself lugging several pounds of ribbon on industrial-strength clothespins through the halls come Homecoming.

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