Every high school has their own homecoming traditions and depending on where you live and what school you go to, homecoming can mean a lot of different things. It may, quite literally, mean a coming home of sorts, an opportunity for your school’s alumni to visit their old stomping grounds, to see old friends, teachers, and the underclassman they left behind. Sometimes, it involves a parade, or a big football game like a match up against your school’s rivals, and, if you’re not a sports fan, may be the only football game you’ll go to all year. Often, a homecoming court is crowned, with the highly coveted homecoming king and queen reigning over their kingdom for a year (or maybe until a prom king and queen come along).
But the main event, the piéce de résistance of any school’s homecoming is the dance. You’ve seen it play out in all the best high school dramas: Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, Vampire Diaries. Homecoming is a staple at high schools, no matter how it’s celebrated. In the most traditional format and shown in most on-screen portrayals of the event, homecoming resembles a dance much like prom…but more like a baby prom.
In recent years as homecoming has become a bigger event, it has begun to resemble prom more and more. Homecoming proposals have become more elaborate, mimicking the creative signs, cute treasure hunts and yummy treats that now seem to come with every promposal.
First, the obvious difference. The two dances come at different times of the year. While prom often marks the beginning of spring and the end of the school year, homecoming, which often takes place in September or October, doubles as a kind of welcome back to school.
According to Billboard, homecoming is an American tradition. That explains why Britain native Charli XCX was so thrilled to perform at a lucky school’s homecoming dance back in 2014.
Homecoming began at colleges, as a celebration for the first football game of the season, where alumni would come back to visit their former campuses. According to Broadly, while no one is positive which college officially started the tradition, the University of Missouri, Baylor University, and the University of Illinois all claim to have started hosting homecoming events in 1911, 1909, and 1910, respectively. No matter who started it, the tradition spread quickly to other colleges and high schools around the country.