Homecoming being an American tradition, it was a conversation topic at English Conversation Time this past Friday. In fact, it was more than a conversation topic; it was an activity of sorts. ECT meets a block away from the end of the parade route, and both ECT and the parade started at 6:00 p.m., so our evening began with a modest field trip down to the corner of State and Lake Streets to watch part of the parade. There were a lot of people in front of me, so I couldn't see much, but it was clearly a lot bigger than the Homecoming parades I remember from my own time in college. Which was no surprise, since UW-Madison is so much larger than Cornell College's. (How much larger? Well, about 98% of Cornell's entire student body could fit into one of UW-Madison's dorms.)
Homecoming was an entirely foreign concept to nearly everyone in my small group. The four internationals from China had never experienced anything like it, but the two other native speakers, both UW-Madison undergrads, were only slightly more familiar with it. They were aware it was going on, of course, but neither had taken part in any of the Homecoming events, and one of them went to an all-girls high school that didn't really have a Homecoming. I chatted with some other undergrads at Pres House this evening, and they likewise hadn't participated in the Homecoming festivities. In retrospect, that shouldn't have surprised me; as a Cornell student, Homecoming was, for me and many if not most of my friends, a non-event.
My high school Homecoming, on the other hand ... well, for me that was just as much a non-event. But it was a pretty big deal for the student body at large, I think. For the alumni, not so much. I never went back to a Wheaton Central Homecoming, and frankly it's hard for me to imagine anyone coming back for a high school Homecoming, except perhaps for very recent grads whose boy- or girlfriends haven't graduated yet. (The kids I talked to at Pres House tonight said much the same thing.)
I have gone back to Cornell for a few Homecomings, though, and generally I've had a pretty good time. It's kind of funny that high school Homecomings are important to current students but meaningless to alumni while the exact opposite is true of college Homecomings.