Mums — love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that they’re a crucial part of Texas homecoming traditions. But for those outside of the state, seeing a mum for the first time might be a cultural shock.
That was the case for junior Sree Laasya Mallela, who moved from Tennessee this year.
“It was just completely different and weird,” Mallela said. “One, it’s expensive. And two, I don’t really get the idea of it. But in a way, I guess it’s kind of cool. It represents your personality and who you are.”
Kentucky native and volunteer Stephanie Click had a similar reaction to seeing mums for the first time. But despite her own initial doubts, she later became one of several volunteers who construct products in the Mum Shoppe to fulfill over 100 orders this year.
“I thought, ‘my kids will never do mums,’” Click said. “This is such a crazy Texas tradition, but now I love them and I look forward to them every year. My son’s a junior this year, and his freshman year, [the Mum Shoppe was] asking for volunteers and I thought, ‘I’m crafty. I can probably figure it out.’”
While most orders come in the weeks before homecoming, volunteers in the Mum Shoppe begin production in November and December. Mums, short for ‘chrysanthemum,’ begin with the focal flower. Volunteers deconstruct and remake flowers with pipe cleaners so they don’t disintegrate from the glue they use to attach ribbons.
“It’s pretty labor-intensive,” Click said. “Even a really inexpensive, small mum still takes between an hour and a half to two hours to make, so you’re mostly paying for the time and materials.”
The next step for making a mum is the hour-long process of making the backing, called the points or ruffles. Ribbons are starched, stretched, folded and hand-cut one-by-one.
“It’s something people can personalize,” Click said. “It shows their personality, so [for] whatever they’re into, we try to be able to have the different trinkets. [We have] Starbucks, Whataburger, different clubs. We have gamer bears. Whatever people are into, they can make it [based on] their personality.”
This year, mums didn’t just have the usual LED lights and glaringly loud cowbells. Many were heavily influenced by internet trends, with rubber chickens, Starbucks, and Crocs making a grand appearance.
“Every single one is different,” Click said. “There are no two that are the same. When the students come to pick one up, I like to see what that student looks like, because you know [them] by what they put on their mum.”