TEXAS (KXAN) — In the thick of Texas homecoming season, many high schoolers will give and receive traditional homecoming mums — faux chrysanthemums decorated with glitter, ribbons and trinkets.
But how did the tradition emerge, and what can Texas newcomers expect?
While its origins aren’t officially confirmed, many trace the decorative piece back to Missouri, where the wearing of homecoming mums became a tradition in the early 1900s. Those early mums were made using real chrysanthemums, according to reporting from Texas Highways.
Tricia Wise, owner of Mums The Word NB, has been creating mums each homecoming season for seven years. She said those early mums began as a token of affection in Missouri before becoming popularized in Texas in the 1930s.
How has the homecoming mum evolved?
What began as a fresh mum adorned with a ribbon has since evolved into elaborate designs that can run upwards of 20 pounds in weight, adorned with trinkets, a student’s name and graduation year along with braided ribbons.
This evolution from fresh to faux mums have made it easier to work with them and give them a longer shelf life, Wise said. These longer shelf lives also bode well for more elaborate and personalized designs, she added.
“Every year is crazy, but it’s a good kind of crazy,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun — you spend your life covered in glitter.”
That being said, different regions of Texas have different styles, said Ari Rodriguez, known to her customers as the Permian Mum Lady. Her West Texas shop often handles between 200 and 250 mums a season, with sizes and design tastes varying by region.
Some regions specifically do school colors as part of the design, while other areas have students pick colors of their choice. Out in West Texas, homecoming mums extend beyond high school, to young children at Friday night football games.
“I’ve gone from one side of Texas to the completely other side of Texas, and I’ve seen it all and it is just — it blows my mind being out here, how much different it is,” she said.
While colors and sizes might vary by reason, homecoming mums are seen across the board as a reflection of a student and their interests, Wise added.
Her designs center around customizations based on the individual wearer, from the college they’ll be attending and what they’re studying to pop culture influences.
“Do you like Harry Styles? I’m putting that on your mum. Are you a Swiftie? We’re putting that on your mum,” Wise said. “It should really talk about or speak to who you are.”
That being said, Wise added she’s had to get extra creative this year amid inflation impacts and supply chain issues.
Texas mums impacted by inflation, supply chain
Some individual items that go into mum-making, like ribbons, glitter and other design elements, have nearly tripled in cost, she said. One particularly difficult find was white ribbon, which she said she often uses in her designs.
Recognizing the cost impacts on the buyer’s end, Wise created an economy line with mums at reduced costs for families who might be feeling financial pinch points.
“I know that there are so many people out there that they would, they still want to be able to participate in the Texas tradition, but they don’t have the ability to maybe spin what they normally would,” she said.
Mums The Word NB also offers DIY mum-making kits for students and families to participate in the creative process on their own terms. For Rodriguez, she offers mum supplies through her online shop for Texans who’ve relocated out of state to bring the tradition with them.
When does mum-making season begin?
While most Texas homecomings take place in September and October, that doesn’t mean you should wait for the fall to place an order, Wise said. A single homecoming mum can take up to 20 hours to create — so getting those orders in early is of the essence.
Some businesses begin taking orders as early as May, Wise said, while she added she recommends her customers begin sending design ideas or putting down a deposit in August.
Rodriguez echoed that, adding timing is of the essence in getting an order in and a customized mum made. She tends to handle about 200 to 250 mums a season, logging anywhere from eight to 30 hours on a single design.
She begins collecting her orders as early as June, but advises families to get them in at least a month before a homecoming celebration — if not earlier — to ensure they’re able to receive the completed mum in time.
With many people relocating to Texas, Wise said this homecoming season might be their first exposure to the tradition. She encourages newcomers to embrace the festivities with an open mind and heart — and yes, be prepared to find glitter on yourself for weeks to follow.
“You’re gonna see the whole gamut: you’re gonna see homemade mums, you’re gonna see huge mums, you’re gonna see just everything,” Wise said, adding: “Look at it and recognize that it is a Texas tradition. It’s something that some kids, they save up all year long for this.”