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History of Mums

Fall in Texas means football, and for any high school or college team, football season includes homecoming. Homecoming means a celebration, and that means a gigantic homecoming mum featuring a chrysanthemum.

Most Texans received their introduction to the chrysanthemum through homecoming when they buy their girlfriend or mother a homecoming mum. While the origins of a “homecoming” celebration go back just over a century in Missouri, the first chrysanthemums were grown about three and a half millennia ago in the Far East.

The origin of the chrysanthemum

The first recorded information about chrysanthemums can be traced to China about 3,500 years ago. Chinese scribes in China first wrote that chrysanthemums were first used as flowering herbs – their roots were boiled and used as a headache remedy. The sprouts and petals were used in salads by ancient Chinese culinarians. Ancient Chinese people called the flower the “chu” named after the city of Chu-Hsien (chrysanthemum city).

The Japanese were introduced to the chrysanthemum about 2,800 years ago. The crest and seal of the emperor and many prominent Japanese families of nobility included a Kikumon, meaning chrysanthemum (kiku) and crest (mon). To this day, the Japanese remain enamored with the mum – they have a mum festival known as the Festival of Happiness.

In 1753, Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus gave the flower the name of chrysanthemum after the Greek words “chrysos” (gold) and “anthemon” (flower). Within about 20 years, the chrysanthemum found its way to the colonies which later became the United States, where its popularity grew over the decades until it became the “Queen of the Fall Flowers.”

Evolution of the mum

The NCAA recognizes the University of Missouri as the official place of birth of homecoming. In 1911, Mizzou athletic director Chester Brewer encouraged alumni to attend the game, and he gave them incentive to attend by having a huge celebration around the game that included parades and rallies.
At some point not too long after this first homecoming celebration in Missouri, the tradition of a boy giving a chrysanthemum to his homecoming date as a corsage was born in Texas. For decades, mums were simple, comprised of just a small flower with perhaps a few ribbons.

In the 1970s, homecoming mums became more elaborate and have continued to grow to the mammoth size they are today. Now they include a huge flower (albeit a silk flower has replaced the real chrysanthemum as the centerpiece), tons of large ribbons, charms, bows, bells, cowbells, stuffed animals, perhaps the high school mascot, and even LED lights in some cases! Even guys have their own version of the mum, called the garter – an elastic band worn around the upper arm that has the same features as the mum only on a much smaller scale.

Not just in Texas anymore

For the longest time, homecoming mums were a Texas-only tradition, but in the last few years it has expanded into neighboring states such as Oklahoma and Louisiana. A huge mum can be a source of pride for a girl in both her school and her homecoming date.

Even though homecoming mums have cropped up in other states, like most things, they are still bigger in Texas. The Mum Shop has been a leading designer for custom mums and garters in North Texas for 30 years. Call us and let us make your homecoming mum or garter something you will always treasure.