Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Interesting Facts- A Brief History of Prom

So over the next couple of weeks, we'll be taking a look at the histories and interesting facts of many famous school dances and events. Prom, Sadie Hawkins, Winterfest (snofest, etc), and Homecoming.

Its that time of the year. You know it. The year when seniors (and increasingly juniors) break out the money and go into a stage of prom-frenzy. Its that time when people are constantly asking "are you going to prom?" and "Who are you going with?". If you're like me, and haven't been asked, this can become annoying. But if you're also like me, and you're proud to learn a few basic facts about the mundane, here's a short history and some facts to dump on your friends (and date if you have one) when the conversations lull.

A Brief History of Prom

Prom is actually short for "promenade", a formal parading of guests at a part.

The first reported proms were in the late 1800s at colleges in the US. They were mostly likely modled after drbutante balls held by the rich and famous and hosted by middle class familes who wanted something similar for their children. One of the first recorded mentions of it is a journal entry of a student attending a prom at a local college. During this time (when the world was stricter and maybe a tad bit duller in some cases), proms were chaperonded senior-class-only balls held at the end of the school year. Proms were suppose to help develop social skills and etiquette. Students would attend these proms wearing their Sunday best.

In the 1920s (when people were a bit more daring), proms often included tea and dancing. Around the 1930s and 40s, prom began to appear in high school yearbooks and somewhat resembled today's prom where people dressed up in party clothes and danced.

By the 1950s, prom began to finally be seen as one of the most important events of the year. During this time, it became more and more important to be elected prom king or queen and finding the right dress and date also become important. Proms moved from high school gyms to fancier places like hotel ballrooms and country clubs. Expensive prom dresses, and tuxedos became normal. Now prom was more of a time to show off and be admired rather than a simple gathering. These proms also began to be themed (This year my school is having a 1920s theme [The Great Gasby].).

By the time the 1970s and 80s rolled around, high school proms began to become a life event for most students, turning into the ultimate rite of passage. And many movies and popular culture began to have prom as an important main theme or an event in the story.

These days (where some people take prom to the extremes), proms feature a pre-prom event (usually Grand March), a dinner, dance, and then a post-prom event (this year its the mall for us). Many schools host prom at off campus places (with some schools apparently hosting it on cruise ships). Although one of the most famous proms was when President Gerald Ford's daughter, Susan, had her senior prom at the White House in 1975.

According to one study, a typical prom couple usually spends more than $500 on prom (tickets, buying or renting formal clothing, flowers, limos, etc). While it is still traditional for boys to ask the girls, many more people are choosing to go with friends in a group, by themselves, or with a non-traditional date.

Prom and similar functions from around the world (Source: Facts and history about prom)
  • Austria - Matura ball (in January or February), where parents and relatives are invited by students
  • Australia and New Zealand - School formal or just Formal
  • Brazil - Bailes de Formatura, no prom queen or queen at all 
  • British English - Ball
  • Chiles - Fiesta de Graduacion (graduation parties) held in December, after dinner parents leave and alcoholic beverages are available
  • Colombia - “proms” where alcohol is available
  • Egypt - similar to the Christian schools in the United States. (I have no idea what they mean by this. Seriously. I go to a Christian school and our prom is like every other prom.)
  • Germany - Abifeir or “Abi ball” or “Abi Party”, where alcohol is provided because the legal drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and wine but majority is 18 or older
  • Ireland - Debutantes’ Ball and Grads- for all male schools
  • Italian military schools “Mak II 100″, held a 100 days before graduation and is not formal
  • Lithuania - Isleistves, held the same day after presentation of diplomas. Also 100 days before prom is called Simtadienis, it is a less formal event organized by the junior class but attended by the senior class
  • Malaysia - proms organized by students only, no school administratives take part
  • Pakistan - Farewell Dinner and Farewell Function, held only after college academic yr. Prom queen and king are called “Lady of the evening” and “Gentlemen of the Evening”
  • Peru - “Fiesta de Promocion” may be help at the house of a graduating senior, where dinner is served along with alcoholic drinks and breakfast served at 6 the next morning
  • Poland - Studniowka - 100 days before exams, mainly for those who are about to graduate but underclassmen may attend. Graduates receive a ribbon with name on it and wear them until the end of the academic year
  • Slovakia - Stuzkova’ held in November or December attend by students, parents, and teachers
  • Slovenia - Maturantwki, tradition to have first dance with mother/father
  • Sweden - Studentbalen meaning the student ball
  • United Kingdom - school ball until 2000 but now school prom
Time- Brief History of Prom
PromWorks- Prom History
Random History- From Debutante Balls to High School Hops: A History of Prom
A Short History of Prom and Prom Dresses

Pages with tips and etiquette suggestions to check out.
Prom Etiquette
Prom Guide
Tips for Prom

So, do you have any stories about prom? Or any big plans for it? Or none?


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