Homecoming, which takes place every fall, is a very important high school event. Although traditions may vary by school, it is typically defined by a football game followed by a semi-formal dance. There may even be a parade or a school spirit week in conjunction with the occasion. Some schools may also use it as a time to welcome back alumni for a special dinner or reunion. During high school homecoming, there are special rules of etiquette students should follow.
Homecoming as we know it had its birthplace in Missouri at the University of Missouri. The university has a longstanding rivalry with Kansas University that began in the pre-Civil War era during the "border wars." In 1911, then-Missouri President of Athletics Chester L. Brewer decided lighten up the rivalry with a parade and festivities in which alumni were invited to "come home" to Mizzou. The tradition, now followed by most schools and states, was born.
Mums and Flowers
Some schools have a tradition of dates for the dance purchasing mums for one another, or handmade ribbons with tassels on them that students either make or purchase. If your school participates in mum exchanges, the boy should purchase a mum for his date while the girl purchases a garter (a small mum worn around the arm). These should be worn all day on game day and to the homecoming game itself. For the dance itself, girls purchase boutonnieres for their dates (a small flower pinned on the lapel of his jacket) and the boy purchases a corsage (a small arrangement of flowers that can be worn on the wrist or pinned on the girl's dress).
Most homecoming dances are semi-formal, although each school will specify its own dress code. For a semi-formal event, girls should wear cocktail dresses (usually cut at the knee) and boys should wear a suit with a tie. Tuxedos and long dresses should be avoided, unless the school specifically says the dance is formal.
If you go out to a dinner before the dance with your date, discuss who will pay the bill beforehand. If going as a group, it can be customary for everyone to pay for their own food. If you're going as a date, it is a good idea to discuss this beforehand so there is no confusion. Not too long ago, men paid for everything, but as women become more independent confusion over who foots the bill grows. While it is polite for the boy to offer to pay the bill, the check can be split.
At the Dance
While at the homecoming dance, the Fredericksburg, Virginia, local newspaper's 2008 edition of "A little etiquette goes a long way at homecoming" states that you don't need to stay with your date the entire time and may spend some time with your friends. While you may not be in love with your date, it is proper to spend at least some time with the person. As a courtesy, you should save at least one slow dance for your date.
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Writing since 2008, Fiona Miller has taught English in Eastern Europe and also teaches kids in New York schools about the Holocaust. Her work can be found on Overstock.com, ConnectED and various other Web sites. Miller holds a B.A. in French from Chapman University and an M.A. in educational theater from New York University.