Origins of widespread Homecoming celebrations unclear


Hanna Dannar

Students attended the bonfire on Oct. 12 as a part of the annual Homecoming festivities.

With annual Homecoming festivities and all the excitement that comes with them coming to a close, some may be left wondering from where, exactly, the American celebration of Homecoming and its various traditions originates.

According to, much debate surrounds the topic of when and where the first Homecoming occurred.

One theory states that the 1911 game between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri served as the first official Homecoming.

According to, the two rival schools had previously competed against each other exclusively on neutral fields. In 1911, the game was played on the home field of the Missouri Tigers. The University of Missouri’s athletic director encouraged alumni to return to their alma mater for the game to improve spectator turnout.

The alumni who returned—some 10,000 of them—participated in festivities such as a parade and bonfire that were not unlike the ones now commonplace across the nation. Ultimately, the game ended in a 3-3 tie, but the great success of the Homecoming festivities inspired similar celebrations in other American colleges.

Other colleges such as such as Baylor University and the University of Illinois claim to have held Homecoming-like events around the same time frame as the KU versus MU game, so the official origins of such celebrations are still undecided.

It is certain, however, that by 1920, Homecoming celebrations were occurring all across the nation at colleges and high schools alike.

Among the most common traditions associated with Homecoming celebrations include parades, bonfires, activities designed to garner school pride, dances and a football game serving as the culminating event.

Homecoming events have branched out past the typical football season time frame to occur during other sports seasons as well. Some schools host a “Winter Homecoming” during basketball season, for instance.

Although the origins of the very first Homecoming are murky, it is clear that such traditions have become cemented into the yearly routine and will continue to make their impact on students and alumni for generations to come.