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A Brief History: The Southern Homecoming Mum and its Forerunners

At The Mum Shop, we are a leading designer for custom mums and garters as well as a retailer for homecoming supplies. From its simple start to impressive current incarnation, the homecoming mum is just one of the things that is “bigger” in Texas. We feel it is our duty to explain briefly what a homecoming mum is for all of our customers who venture onto our website...

The chrysanthemum was first grown in the Far East - China - as a flowering herb and was first written about by scribes over 3,500 years ago. Their artwork shows mums as they would appear today in fact. Folklore teaches that the boiled roots were taken as a headache medicine and ancient culinarians used sprouts and petals in salads. Sometimes, the leaves were brewed for recreational purposes. The ancient Chinese name for chrysanthemum is "Chu." The Chinese city of Chu-Hsien (which means Chrysanthemum City) is an eponym of the flower.

Then 2,800 years ago, the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan. So enamored with the mum, that the Japanese decreed that the flower would be the crest and seal of the Emperor. Family seals for prominent Japanese families of nobility also contain some type of mum called a Kikumon - "Kiku" means chrysanthemum and "Mon" means crest. In Japan, the Imperial Order of the Chrysanthemum is the most elite Order of Chivalry. Japan also has a mum festival, which is called the Festival of Happiness.

The chrysanthemum was first introduced to the west some 250 years ago. In 1753 Karl Linnaeus, the famous botanist from binomial nomenclature fame, combined the Greek words chrysos, meaning gold with anthemon, meaning flower. Botanical archaeologists say this is probably a true description of the ancient flower, as it also points out the mum's need for sunlight. The earliest depictions of mums show them as small, yellow daisy-like flowers.

The chrysanthemum was first introduced into the United States during colonial times. Three hundred years later, its popularity has grown such that mums now reign as the undisputed "Queen of the Fall Flowers."

The first homecoming celebration dates back to the year 1911. University of Missouri Athletic Director, Chester Brewer, afraid that fans and alumnus would not attend the “big game” due to a change in location, devised a plan to add some excitement to the game. He challenged the alumnus to return home for a great celebration with parades, parties, a rally, and of course the big game.
For many of us in the South, and for virtually all Texans, our introduction to the chrysanthemum was a corsage for the girlfriends and mothers at Homecoming football games.

They were very basic with a few ribbons in the school colors hanging from the flower with the school letters made from pipe cleaners. Today, the silk flower has replaced the chrysanthemum as the centerpiece for homecoming mums, and now you can find them decorated with dozens of charms, ribbons, bells, and even with the high school mascot or teddy bear. I guess the girls felt the boys were being left out and started requesting a smaller version they could wear on their arm…called the garter. I don’t believe it was the boys’ idea, but they have come to feel deserving in time. The evolution of the “mum” has been a sight to see. Only one person can be a homecoming queen, but everyone can wear a mum fit for royalty.

The Mum Shop offers several unique items that can make your homecoming mum a high school favorite.


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