The phrase “mum’s the word” certainly does not apply in Texas during homecoming week. On the Friday of homecoming at any Texas public school, it’s not unusual to hear a raucous clinking and clanking of bells, chains and charms throughout the hallways, making a noise similar to that of a herd of cattle. These instruments are components to a highly upheld Texas-tradition: mums.
By definition, “mum” is a noun meaning “a cultivated chrysanthemum.” It is also an adjective meaning “quiet.” While the latter of these two couldn’t be further from the truth, the “cultivation” component of the mum process is half the fun of homecoming. In Texas, a mum is a rather large arrangement of ribbons, bells, charms, and a button sewn together and designed to be worn around a woman’s neck. The male counterpart to a mum is the garter, which is a smaller, less flashy version of the mum designed to fit around a man’s arm. The mum is designed and ordered by the male date and the garter is designed and ordered by the female date, to be later exchanged on the night before homecoming week.
While it may seem superfluous to spend a lot of time, money, and effort creating such extravagant accessories only meant to be worn for one night, it’s would be almost barbaric not to arrive to school on homecoming day decked out in a mum or garter. In Texas, where we love our Friday night lights, it would be borderline blasphemous not to cheer on your school’s football team dressed as delightfully flamboyant as possible.
Some high school boys have been known to order three large buttons for their date’s mum, arranging them in the shape of a heart. In Texas, the gaudier the mum, the better.
These mums are often sold and put together by PTA moms in a sweatshop-like environment (I’m not even being hyperbolic), and a portion of the funds usually goes to benefit the school. People have also been known to buy supplies from craft stores and just put together the southern accessories themselves.
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To anyone but a Texan, the idea of the mum and garter may seem tacky and over the top, but down here, it’s as standard as apple pie on the Fourth of July.
For more information on how to order a mum in time for homecoming, go themumshop.com, or visit The Mum Shop’s storefront.
The Mum Shop | 221 W. Parker Road, Suite 400, Plano | themumshop.com