When foreign students first heard “homecoming”, they might ask: what does the word mean? How do Americans celebrate that? British singer Charli XCX presented her impression on homecoming party: “Homecoming dances and proms are an American thing I’ve always been very fascinated with because all my favorite movies end with a prom or something like that…” (Brooke). In the latest Spider-man movie, the story was also based on a setting of homecoming party. However, homecoming is not only about party and dance: it is an experience of growing up and coming back to your old school memory. Simply meaning “coming home”, homecoming is designed to display school spirit for welcoming alumni back to the campus. Sometimes, historical cities might celebrate their birthday with homecoming parties as well. For instance, in 1976 Detroit celebrated its 275th birthday with a homecoming festival that was considered “Michigan’s biggest party ever” (Longo). But most of the time, homecoming party refers to the school party.
As the most festive event of fall, students select a homecoming king and a homecoming queen in their school. Other schools might also include related signatures, such as a parade with floats and the election of a homecoming court. However, not many Americans truly know about the history of homecoming, as a debate is still on which school began this tradition of celebrating the first football game of the season. The University of Missouri, Baylor University in Texas, and The University of Illinois all claim that they invented homecoming during a period of 1909 to 1911(Brooke). Although the truth of its origin is controversial, homecoming started from college campuses.Since homecoming is regarded as a highlight of fall, many schools dedicate an entire week for homecoming, which is called “spirit week”.
During this week, tons of activities go around campuses, but the most essential part occurs on Friday or Saturday night: homecoming dance party. The party is always open to students from all grades as well as their dates. The location of the party varies from school to school, whether at the decorated gym or outside at a fancy ball, yet the purpose is same: everyone enjoys their party time dancing with the music by DJ and band. For the dress code, being comfortable is the first choice. Instead of dressing up in floor-length prom dress, girls often wear less formal knee-length dress with heels in summer, and boys dress up in ties and suits rather than tuxes (Robin). In addition, a homecoming court is usually held for candidates of homecoming king and queen, and students vote for their favorite individuals. Typically, the titles of homecoming king and queen belong to upper classmen who are involved in school activities most (Morris).
At the end of party, the king and the queen will be crowned on the stage by school principle or famous alumni. Besides going to school’s homecoming parties, individuals can also hold homecoming parties at home, which is a great chance to unite friends and family together for entertaining. First, they need to determine the time of their parties, before or after game, as well as the type of the party, whether a themed party, a pre-game party, or a post-game party(eHow). Then, when the hosts are creating their invitations, they should provide all the information and requests to their guests, thus using school colors and mascot for the design of invitations. In order to reflect the theme and tone of homecoming, it is better for hosts to dress up. On the party day, the hosts should set up the party earlier, prepare several pre-party games for early birds who come to the party before the starting time, and greet all the guests with enthusiasm. During the party, the hosts need to check periodically in case the guests need anything. Besides, they should lead to cheer for the school spirits, set up the games, and introduce friends who do not know each other. When the quests are leaving, the hosts can offer them gift bags to keep up the school-spirit. After the last guest leave, they can sit down and finally relax!
Why do Americans count homecoming as an important part of youth culture and school experience? Sociologists Lynn M. Hoffman explains that the experience of homecoming parties is either “rites of passage” or “rites of intensification”(Brooke). While rites of passage refer to individual, rites of intensification mean how to live within a group and learn interdependence. As Hoffman writes, both parts are “embedded in the high school experience” (Brooke), an essential path from childhood to adulthood. For high school students, homecoming represents a time of growing up and getting ready for college. For college students, homecoming symbolizes a time of preparing for entering society. For those graduates and alumni, homecoming stands for a time of coming back to show their school spirits. Therefore, tradition only seems absurd as you are distanced from an outsider’s perspective. If American students invite you to their homecoming party next time, you should not hesitate to join them!