History of Homecoming


By Alex Ehrenberg

As the leaves begin to change, the temperature cools, and the football team starts up their season, it is clear that homecoming will soon be approaching. Every year, universities and high schools all across the country host their annual football games and dances. Although it is custom for students to go out and spend money on a dress, makeup, and hair, where did this tradition come from and why has it stuck around for over a century?

Homecoming is an annual tradition in the U.S. where people, towns, high schools, and colleges come together in late September or early October to welcome back alumni and current students. According to the University of Illinois Archives, annual alumni football games have existed since the 1870s with the Harvard-Yale football game. In the early 20th century, schools like Northern Illinois University, Baylor University, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign began to host “Home-Coming” which most closely resembles how we celebrate today.

The NCAA recognizes the University of Missouri as conducting the first official homecoming. The nation was quickly enamored with the event. Virtually every university began to develop an annual homecoming, and by 1930 almost every university conducted the homecoming everyone has been more than familiar with.

Soon after, high schools caught onto the trend and it quickly became an adolescent custom. High school homecomings are a lot less about alumni and much more about school spirit. The week leading up to the homecoming game and dance is most famously known as “Spirit Week.” Students dress up according to different themes which builds up to a pep rally where students are decked out in their school colors and gear to express their support for the football team.

I have noticed during my time at Niles West that Homecoming is less about spirit and more about popularity. Competitions for king and queen and who has the cutest hoco proposal are just a few examples of how Homecoming is less about the school and more about the social status of students in it.

The pep assembly Color War is an example of the kind of competition we should be striving for. Friendly competition between classes encourages school wide spirit and gets all students involved. We should emphasize our identity as a school and as a student body instead of putting too much importance on the homecoming court. What’s the point of having a court? The dance is for everyone anyway — what is the point of kings and queens if homecoming is about the unity of the school community.

We should use homecoming as an opportunity to bring down the walls of cliques. For just two nights, let’s just be one student body. Happy homecoming!