Holiday Sports Traditions


Andrew Dursi, Sports

Around the holiday times, many families gather and carry out traditions passed down from one generation to the next in the name of joy and togetherness. In this sense, the sports world is no different, with several major organizations in the US and across the world holding special events or games in honor of the holidays. Here’s a look at just a few of the well-known sports traditions on holidays in the US.


The kick-off to the holiday season usually begins with just that: a kick off. Since 1920, the NFL hosts its annual “Turkey Bowl” games. Nine years after the tradition began, the Portsmouth Spartans, who later became the Detroit Lions, started to play every year on the holiday. Joining them in 1966 were the Dallas Cowboys, who had been struggling to put up big attendance numbers since their creation in 1960. Both teams are iconic in not just American football, but also American sports, a large factor as to why they play the annual game. However, the real reason they both host games on Thanksgiving is much more elementary. Since both teams began doing this, only six total games did not sell out on tickets, making this tradition one of the most profitable for the NFL and both teams.


    As fall changes to winter and the holiday season is in full swing, December 25 comes quickly. After the children wake up to see Old Saint Nick has left them gifts under the tree, it’s time to relax with the family and see what’s on TV. If you can’t count on anything else being on, there will always be the NBA. Similarly to the NFL, the NBA games are standard contests with the exception of winter themed uniforms. The tradition dates back to 1947 where normal games were scheduled on Christmas and boasted the highest attendance numbers of the season. Since then, it has become an annual event which most NBA players, coaches and fans look forward to every year.

New Year’s Day:

With the dawn of a new year comes some of the most recognizable sporting events in the U.S. and around the world: the Rose Bowl and the Winter Classic. Although the former has since taken a backseat to the College Football playoffs, the latter is one of the newest holiday traditions yet, in one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. Usually played in an open stadium near the arena of the home team, the Winter Classic began in 2008 in a match between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The idea for the game stemmed from games played in the 1920s and 30s which were predominantly played outdoors.

The Rose Bowl was once played by the two best teams in college football for the year, and signified national champions. However with the institution of the College Football Playoffs, it has now taken a smaller role as a semifinal game, played between the two and three seed teams. It was originally played in Tournament Park in Pasadena, Calif., in the 1920s but now has its own stadium of the same name in Los Angeles, Calif. Even with this new system, the Rose Bowl is still the oldest bowl game played in college football, and is definitely the most respected.