High School Homecoming Traditions

The first chill of fall. Extended curfews. The marching band. The first touchdown of the season. Crowning the king and queen. Homecoming traditions in American high schools are a whole lot more than just a dance. There are so many things that make this event so special!

What exactly is homecoming? It is a special occasion that celebrates a school’s history, pride, and sense of community. It’s usually a week-long affair filled with exciting events, ending with a homecoming dance. Each high school puts its unique spin on homecoming traditions, but certain things are to be expected during homecoming week.

Homecoming Traditions

1. Spirit Week

The fun usually kicks off with a Spirit Week. During this week, students get to showcase their school spirit by dressing up in a different theme each day. You’ll see everything from ‘Pajama Day’ to ‘Tourist Day,’ and it’s all about getting into the homecoming spirit and showing off that school pride. It’s a chance to get creative and have a blast with friends while celebrating the place you call home—and look funny doing it!

2. The Homecoming Parade

One of the most iconic elements of homecoming traditions is the homecoming parade. Students, teachers, community members, and even alumni come together to create stunning floats, march with school bands, and showcase their club or sports team pride. The whole community often turns out to watch the parade, and it’s an exhilarating experience filled with cheer and school spirit. If you’re a part of the parade, you may even catch some candy!

3. Tailgating

If you’ve ever been to a big sporting event, you’ve probably heard of tailgating. High school homecoming often involves some pre-game tailgating too. Families and students gather in the school parking lot before the big game, firing up grills, playing games, and creating memories. Tailgating is all about building a sense of community and getting everyone pumped up for the game.

4. The Football Game

Homecoming often coincides with a major football game, and it’s not just any game—it’s the game of the year! Students, parents, and alumni fill the bleachers, decked out in their school colors, to cheer on the home team. The game is the centerpiece of homecoming, and there’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching your school kick off football season.

5. The King and Queen

At the homecoming dance, there’s always a highly anticipated moment: the crowning of the homecoming king and queen. The king and queen are often selected through a schoolwide vote, and it’s a huge honor for the winners. When they are crowned, it’s a moment of sheer joy, and the atmosphere becomes even more electric. This tradition adds a touch of royalty to the evening and celebrates the contributions of those who make the school a special place.

6. The Homecoming Dance

After the big game and all the festivities leading up to it, it’s time for the grand finale: the homecoming dance! The dance is the crown jewel of homecoming traditions. It’s a night where everyone gets dressed up and hits the dance floor with friends and classmates. The school creates a magical space with decorations that fit the homecoming theme. While high school homecoming dance traditions vary depending on where you live or what school you attend, the intention is to safely dance the night away and create core high school memories. 

7. Decorations and Themes

The homecoming dance is all about the atmosphere, and that’s where decorations and themes come into play. Each year, the dance has a unique theme that guides the choice of decorations, from the color scheme to the centerpieces. Some popular themes include “Under the Stars,” “Movie Stars,” and “Masquerade Ball.” These themes make the dance feel like a magical escape from the everyday high school routine.

8. Dressing Up

Homecoming is one of those rare occasions where you get to go all out and dress to impress. Ladies slip into elegant dresses, and guys slip into snazzy suits and ties. It’s like a mini-prom, minus the pressure. Shopping for the perfect homecoming outfit is an exciting part of the tradition, and it’s a chance to express your style and individuality.

9. Corsages and Boutonnieres

A charming homecoming tradition is the exchange of corsages and boutonnieres. The guys typically present their dates with a lovely corsage, which is a small arrangement of flowers worn on the wrist. In return, girls often pin a boutonniere, a matching floral arrangement, onto their date’s suit. These floral accessories are a symbol of the special night and serve as a keepsake to remember the occasion.

10. Group Photos and Selfies

It wouldn’t be a high school dance without loads of photos. Homecoming is a prime opportunity for group photos and selfies with friends. The gym is filled with laughter and flashes as everyone captures the memories. These photos often end up in yearbooks and photo albums to be cherished for years to come.

11. After-Parties and Memories

After the dance, many students continue the celebration at after-parties. These gatherings are often hosted by students or parents and provide a safe and fun way to extend the homecoming festivities. Dancing, games, and late-night snacks keep the good times rolling and create unforgettable memories.

12. Alumni Involvement

What makes high school homecoming traditions even more special is the participation of alumni. Many alumni return to their alma mater to relive their glory days, reconnect with old friends, and show their support for the school. It’s heartwarming to see generations of students come together to celebrate their school and create a shared sense of community.

High school homecoming traditions are a treasured part of the American high school experience. From Spirit Week to the big game, the dance, and the after-parties, this annual celebration brings students, families, and alumni together in a display of school spirit and community pride. These traditions create lasting memories and strengthen the bonds that make high school such a unique and unforgettable time in our lives. 

Hyped about homecoming? Use our College Match tool to find a college that’s just as excited about homecoming as you are!

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