The origins of Prom

From left to right: Juniors Kaya Hencke, Ella Speer, and Brynn Holt-Ling sell tickets at lunch. Photo by Chelsea Ramsey

As juniors and seniors look for dresses, tuxes and maybe even a date for the the annual, school-sanctioned and widely famous prom, one might wonder, where did this tradition come from?

Firstly, let’s address the name. Prom is short for promenade and can be easily defined as  a formal parade of guests. But the idea of this century’s kind of prom originates back to 19th century American universities. There, they held co-ed banquets honoring that year’s graduating class, according to Time Magazine.

Time also suggests that the banquets kept getting pushed to younger and younger students, until the 1940s where it took its hold on American high schools. In the 1950s, schools began to allow proms to be held in hotels and country clubs due to the thriving postwar economy.

Back then it was a parade of the graduating class, but what does it mean to us now? Because the event stems back generations, the reasons that we have prom have changed greatly over the years. Parker Zinn, Carrboro junior and Junior Class Council President, believes that prom is a opportunity for students.

“Prom gives students the opportunity to spend a magical night with their peers outside of the classroom and really treat themselves to the experience of a lifetime,” said Zinn, in an interview via email.

While prom is a world-wide phenomenon, and has universal traditions, Carrboro also has its own traditions.

Ella Speer, junior and Class Council’s Multi-Media Manager, shares her take on one beloved Carrboro prom tradition.

“I would say that the promposals are one of the most exciting aspects of Carrboro’s pre-prom anticipation,” said Speer, also via email.

So why have we kept these traditions alive? Zinn elaborated on the significance of the occasion.

“We believe that prom is a vital part of the high school experience because of its unique nature. All students have the opportunity to come together and celebrate each other at a formal dance, spending the night worry-free and having a blast,” said Zinn.

To promote this idea of coming together and celebrating each other, Carrboro’s Junior Class Council says that they cannot do without inclusivity.

One way they worked on inclusivity was making sure everyone could afford prom by making sure everyone could access formal wear, and offering a discounted ticket prices for those in need (see Ms. Crider in the CIC for discounted tickets and formal wear).

“This year, we hope to diversify prom and make it more inclusive to all. We have discounted ticket prices for students unable to afford regular ticket prices, additionally advertised Cinderella’s Closet and other dresswear businesses for discounted or free dresswear, and we have spoken with students around CHS to discuss ways we may make prom more inclusive and enjoyable for all,” said Speer.

Cinderella’s Closet is a charity that compiles gently used and donated formal wear for those who need it. The charity will be held the day of prom, April 13, at the Christ United Methodist Church in Southern Village. You can go there to find dresses, shoes, jewelry and other prom essentials, or you can donate any used prom items for others to try on.

Carrboro’s Junior Class Council worked extremely hard on this year’s prom and can’t wait to see attendees on April 13, at Governor’s Club from 8pm -11pm.