How Well Do You Know Your Southern Homecoming Traditions?



By: J. Scott Wilson

7 Min Quiz

Image: Tulane Public Relations via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

If you grew up south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the word "homecoming" means something a little different to you than it does to those who hail from colder climes. While it's a big celebration just about everywhere, in the Deep South, there are layers of ceremony and issues of societal standing that go far beyond the fancy dresses and football games.

Of course, the high point of the entire celebration is the homecoming dance! While the senior prom is a big deal for those about to graduate high school, homecoming is a time for all grade levels to put on their best bib and tucker and strut their stuff. This part of homecoming is pretty much exclusively the province of high school. At the college level, homecoming is more a time to get the alumni to return to campus in hopes they'll be so moved by their alma mater's hospitality that they'll open their checkbooks and donate to the endowment, the booster club or the slush fund for stadium improvements. The festivities also get a little wilder, as you'll learn in the quiz!

Even if you're not from the South, you'll enjoy this quiz!  You'll learn something about the genteel ways of your Southern cousins, and it might even bring back some fond memories of your own high school days. Put on your dancing shoes and get started!

What kind of election is held before homecoming week begins, or sometimes at the big dance?

If you've seen "Carrie," you know the answer to this one, although rest assured that most king and queen coronations do not involve buckets of blood and telekinesis-spawned horror and mayhem. They're usually mock-serious ceremonies involving cardboard crowns and lots of pictures.


Once the homecoming queen is elected, her ____ must be assembled.

This is a tradition that has gone by the wayside at many smaller schools, but at large and medium-sized high schools in the South, the queen must have her court! These can be young ladies who are elected on their own ballot, are selected by faculty or by the queen herself.


Another must when it's homecoming time, usually taking place right before the football game, is the ...

The homecoming parade can be as simple as the homecoming court riding in convertibles and waving to the crowd or as elaborate as glee-club-created floats, marching bands, dancing groups and other festivities. Thanks to technology, they're also now frequently webcast for alumni who can't make it to the festivities.


When the picnic happens on the day of the game, it frequently evolves/devolves into what other gathering?

Just as with pro football, college football tailgating is a major affair. What used to be convivial gatherings of backyard grillers and sandwich chefs has now become dominated by giant tailgating clubs with all manner of equipment and huge setups.


While such activities would usually be a felony, the kidnapping of the opposing team's ______ is a common happening.

This can be as simple as swiping a statue or as complex as coaxing an animal of some sort into a transportable container for temporary relocation. This can become very complicated if the mascot is something like a buffalo, although the University of California-Santa Cruz mascot (the banana slug) would be an easier proposition.


Many high schools engage in the practice of _____ Week coming up to the day of the homecoming game.

Spirit Week is one of the more fun and entertaining events leading up to the game. Different schools have different traditions surrounding it, but it's sure to be one of the most Instagrammable events of the school year.


In a tradition that's mostly observed at the college level, what big event takes place on the night before the homecoming game?

These bonfires can be gigantic affairs, sometimes incorporating the talents of engineering students to design the structure in such a way that it will burn effectively. When the homecoming game involves a heated rivalry, effigies of the opposing team's mascot will frequently adorn the fire.


According to "Southern Living," the bible of Southern culture, which of the following foods is NOT a staple of church homecomings?

According to "Southern Living," most of the fried chicken comes from the Publix supermarket chain, although none of the grande dames in attendance will ever admit to it, and it's a tremendous breach of etiquette to ask. The dessert tables are also something to write home about.


Texas seems to have more than its share of homecoming weirdness, as when members of the Texas A&M kidnapped the mascot of what rival university?

The University of Texas at Austin, the flagship campus of the system, has had a longhorn named Bevo as its mascot for decades. On more than one occasion, enterprising troupes of Aggies, as the Texas A&M students are known, have given Bevo a ride to new quarters without the permission of his keeper.


In 1999, a tragic bonfire collapse killed 12 people and injured 27, and this changed the way bonfires are constructed. At what university did this happen?

The Aggie Bonfire was (and still is) a legendary event, with an immense stack of logs and kindling. When the stack collapsed, fear of using heavy equipment led to many of the logs being removed by hand. The entire A&M football team, along with much of the Corps of Cadets, worked together to clear the collapse.


During what season is homecoming usually held?

An important part of the homecoming experience is the big football game, especially for high school, and just as with college and the National Football League, football season is mostly during the fall. In the South, of course, another good reason to have the dance in the fall months is that there will be fewer cases of heatstroke among the formalwear-clad attendees!


In Great Britain, debutantes were traditionally presented to the king or queen. What monarch saw the end of this ritual?

In 1958, a group of more than a thousand girls was presented to Queen Elizabeth, marking the final time this ritual was observed. The tradition was more than two centuries old, but societal changes had made it obsolete.


High schools and universities have homecomings, of course, but what other institution gets in on the concept in the Deep South?

A Southern church homecoming, often held in the summer when church attendance traditionally falls, is a day-long affair with feasting, singing, preaching and reminiscing. This is the covered-dish supper on steroids, for those of you familiar with that tradition.


At the University of Georgia, the football team engages in what tradition before every game, taking on an additional air of ceremony before the homecoming tilt?

The University of Georgia football players take buses to the stadium and disembark before walking through a cheering gauntlet of students and the UGA band on the way to the main gate. During homecoming, the crowd often doubles in size.


At the University of Central Florida, one of the big events of homecoming week involves the students running headlong into what campus feature?

According to "Business Insider," the tradition began in 1995 when someone shoved the campus president into the water. Florida has no shortage of bodies of water, but the significance of the reflecting pond lends an air of civil disobedience to the proceedings.


Back to homecoming! What ornate "flower" is the young man expected to purchase for his date?

You might be scratching your head at the idea of the humble chrysanthemum being the featured flower of the homecoming ritual, but these are no ordinary mums! The flowers themselves play a supporting role to ribbons, garlands, plastic geegaws and other tchotchkes that can turn the "mum" into a giant affair requiring two hands to hold.


Homecoming started as a college affair back in the 19th century, although it's now big at the high school level too. Which of the following universities does NOT lay claim to starting the homecoming tradition?

Back when transportation wasn't as simple or as fast as it is now, it was a much bigger deal for alumni to come from all over to attend homecoming. As it's become easier to attend, the ceremonies have gotten even more raucous.


Actually, the giant homecoming mum is mostly the province of one state. Which one?

The whole thing started, of course, with a simple flower or arrangement of several blooms. Over time, in most cases, the flower was replaced by a silk or other faux bloom so the mums could be stored as keepsakes. Now, of course, most of them are too large for traditional keepsake boxes.


While it's not always on display at halftime, frequently members of the alumni will get together to re-form what?

The alumni band is a time-honored tradition, and it usually takes one of two forms. Either a band of all-alumni performers put on a show at some point using their own instruments or ones borrowed from the school. If there aren't enough alumni to fill the ranks, they're merged with the current student band.


What is the main entertainment of Spirit Week?

With themes like "wacky tacky," "disco day" and the ever-popular "'80s day," which always leads to the raiding of parents' and grandparents' closets and attics, the dress-up days generally lead to the student body (and the cooler teachers) looking very different from the usual school days.


At LSU, the homecoming tailgate reaches a whole new level with a cookoff featuring what?

Louisiana is known as the Bayou State for good reason. Go in any direction from Baton Rouge, and you'll come across miles and miles of alligator-infested bayous. At certain times of the year, you can even get baskets of fried gator bites at fried chicken restaurants.


At Rice University in Houston, Texas, the football team isn't a renowned power, but at least they always win halftime thanks to what?

The Marching Owl Band is somewhat ... unconventional. While most bands march and execute formations with military precision, the MOB takes the field in a mad dash, frequently in costume, and the ensemble features one of the few marching electric basses in collegiate history. They always put on a very special (usually fairly adult-themed) show for homecoming.


The pomp and circumstance of the Southern homecoming dance evolved from what other tradition?

The tradition of debutante balls began in the 19th century in European society, and they were initially intended as coming-out parties for young ladies considered to be of marriageable age in hopes that they would find husbands of good social standing. In the South, that tradition endured until societal changes made the whole thing more of an exercise in etiquette and establishment of the social pecking order.


Virginia Tech might take the prize for the homecoming tradition that covers the most ground. For a week before the homecoming game, what is run around campus, giving everyone interested a chance to touch it?

The idea is that they'll all rub good mojo into the ball to bring victory against VT's traditional homecoming opponent, Virginia Military Institute. According to tradition, the ball should cover at least one hundred miles before game day.


According to the NCAA, which school actually does get credit for the first college homecoming game?

Since the NCAA keeps records of college athletics, the organization's reporting of a 1911 game that alumni were encouraged to attend was good enough for Trivial Pursuit to include it as an official answer. If that's not authoritative enough, Missouri was also the correct answer in "jeopardy!" Baylor and other schools disagree and have their own points of history to support their claims.


At halftime of the homecoming game at the University of Alabama, the student group which has accumulated the most points from participating in homecoming week events is awarded what?

The Spirit Cup is a coveted award given to a student group that shows its collegiate spirit the best by participating in a plethora of events. The usual schedule includes bowling and basketball tournaments, dodgeball games, a "cash for cans" drive and, of course, the homecoming parade.


Smaller schools that don't have athletic teams still have homecomings, usually centered on what event?

Almost always a black-tie affair, the homecoming banquet is a genteel tradition that involves fancy dress, fine food, speeches from notable alumni and lots of stories shared among the attendees. With smaller schools, keeping the alumni involved is always a challenge, and the homecoming banquet is a good way to keep the home fires burning.


Which university is acknowledged by multiple sources to have the largest homecoming parade, on average?

Baylor may not be the oldest (although don't mention that on campus), but their parade is generally considered to be the biggest. Rivaling Thanksgiving Day parades in scope and attendance, it's a show whose planning begins not long after the previous year's parade ends.


While it wasn't a formal "homecoming" as we know it now, in 1888, the University of North Carolina celebrated the return of its football team after a three-game road trip that saw victories over Auburn, Vanderbilt and _______.

The combined score of the three games was an awe-inspiring 114-0. When the team arrived on a special train, student served as "horses" to transport the players' carriages to the university campus.


Back to Texas, where Texas State University traditionally holds what sort of race during homecoming week?

The soapbox derby pits faculty organizations, fraternities and sororities and many other campus groups against each other in the quintessentially low-powered race. The race recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.


Howard University gets the whole campus rocking on the night before the homecoming game with what party?

Over the years, YardFest has seen a tremendous talent slate of both established and up-and-coming R&B and hip-hop talent including Kanye West (before most people knew who he was), the Notorious B.I.G. and Ghostface Killah, along with surprises like Drake and 2 Chainz performing together.


Back to more modern festivities, the University of Florida lays claim to the title of largest student-run pep rally in the world, held the night before the homecoming game. It's called:

The Gator Growl began early in the 20th century when the university was still an all-male school, students' fathers were invited to visit the campus for one day a year. In 1916, the invitations expanded beyond just fathers, and it's grown exponentially since then.


The girls aren't the only ones who get the fun of having giant fake flower arrangements affixed to them! The girls give the boys a slightly smaller mum called a what?

Usually less than half the size of the girl's mum, the garter is worn on the gentleman's arm — hopefully not when he is attempting to drive his date to the homecoming dance. The garter is a much more recent addition to the homecoming tradition.


On an afternoon a day or two before the game, especially at the college level, alumni gather for what event?

At the high school level, the picnic frequently takes the place of a lunch period during the week before the game, and the form of the food offerings ranges from place to place, from classic covered-dish affairs to big grilling events with burgers, dogs and the like over hot coals.


Outside Texas, the most ornamented piece of attire for the ladies is generally what?

Especially for outdoor afternoon events during Homecoming Week, hats are a must to keep the sometimes brutal Southern sun from roasting ladies in their party best. Of course, so much time and effort go into creating the hats that they are often worn to evening events, as well.


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