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A Brief Note on Sports, Holidays, Television, and Traditions

As we enter the Thanksgiving holidays here in the US, I got to thinking about how certain sports or sporting events are associated with holidays and how watching these games – or even having them on in the background – is a traditional part of holiday festivities.

Of course, Thanksgiving in the US means a slate of NFL football games, and having the TV tuned to whichever game(s) might be on is as integral a part of Thanksgiving as having yams and turkey to eat. Here at Clemson, the Thanksgiving weekend seems to always be when the rivalry game between our Tigers the the University of South Carolina Gamecocks takes place, though the TV tradition doesn’t seem to be as strong as the Thursday NFL games – however, in terms of college football, the many bowl games (and, in particular, the Rose Bowl) on New Years Day tends to be traditional television viewing.  The NHL is trying to start a Thanksgiving/television tradition with a game on Friday afternoon of the weekend, though it remains to be seen whether this “tradition” takes hold. I seem to recall that Boxing Day (December 26) in the UK is strongly associated with going to football or rugby matches – though, I don’t know to what extent television plays a role in that tradition.  Being from Canada, the World Junior Hockey Championships are synonymous with the Christmas holidays, as I can recall many Christmas mornings having a Team Canada game on in the background from Helsinki or Riga or Moscow as we opened presents from under the tree.

It seems that many of these sport/television traditions are during the winter months, and perhaps are not the focus of attention either – as I say they are often part of the background but, I would suggest, they would be noticeable by their absence.  It would be kind of strange not having football on in the background at a Thanksgiving Day feast.

In any event, I am wondering what other sporting events might be considered traditional and associated with both watching the game on television – perhaps with family and friends – and particular holidays?

EDIT: Of course, I completely forgot about all of the NBA games on Christmas Day and the NHL’s Winter Classic outdoor game on New Years Day.


  1. 48panda says:

    The tradition of going to Boxing Day football in England began many years before television. For example, West Bromwich Albion, the team that I follow, played in a friendly match against Wrexham on 26 December 1882 and have been in action on Boxing Day in most years since. At one time, it was also not uncommon for games to be played on Christmas Day. In Albion’s case, the most recent one I could find was a 1-0 home win against Newcastle United on 25 December 1956. I think the practice of playing on Christmas Day was stopped around the late 1950s or early 1960s.

    • Thanks for you comment. I always assumed that the Boxing Day games were more about going to the games than to do with television. Has that changed at all in recent years? I haven’t examined the schedule closely, but are there always certain teams that play on Boxing Day or certain matches that always happen on that day? For example, for whatever reason, the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving – though, not always against each other. It is interesting, though, here in the US, there seems to be a race to see which sport “owns” certain holidays for television. One I had neglected to mention was the slate of NBA games on Christmas Day. The NHL has also had a recent tradition of having an outdoor game – called the Winter Classic – on New Years Day as well.

  2. 48panda says:

    I probably should have said “United Kingdom”, rather than just “England”, especially as Wrexham is in Wales!

  3. moz53 says:

    Over the South African summer, which coincides with school holidays and Christmas, three things are usually discussed by many South Africans. Those are Christmas gifts, how Christmas day will be spent, and cricket. The traditional Boxing Day cricket test is associated with recovering from the indulgence of Christmas lunch and the New Years test is a combination of lounging around and watching test cricket in an often fragile state, a result of new year celebrations. So when I think of summer in SA I think sun, holidays (Christmas and New year, the big one) and of course cricket. There was great discontent last year for many cricket supporters when the boxing day test got scrapped and was replaced by the T20 format of the game. A test takes 5 days, whereas a T20 match (where only 20 overs are bowled) can be over in a matter of hours. The character of a test match and the fact that one can watch the game from 10:30 am to 5pm everyday over a period of 5 days, and yet sometimes the result can be a draw, is what I associate with a South African summer holiday, and in particular Christmas and New Years. This year the New Year test match that often takes place at Newlands in Cape Town (during a time when the city is packed with foreign and local visitors) was also scrapped, meaning that this famous sporting venue will miss out in hosting a cricket test, in early January for just the sixth time in 22 years. Suppose that means I will have have memories of this years’ New year, as the one “where there was no cricket to watch”, still associating a holiday and a certain time of the year with the luxury of watching copious amounts of cricket on the television, or not. Happy Thanksgiving and watching sport on that side of the world!

    • Thanks for your comment. I love cricket, and wish I could watch more of it in the US (it has become, essentially, sport that I read about more than watch – though I did get to see a bit of the recent SA – Pakistan test series from Abu Dhabi which was, rather strangely, available through ESPN over here). A test starting on Boxing Day sounds like an amazing Christmas holiday tradition! I can imagine having be one of those “in the background” television traditions. A T20 would be such a different beast – great for one night, I suppose, but a test is perfect for that Christmas through New Years week. Interesting as well that the test is associated with one city, in particular – will some people travel to Cape Town to specifically go to the Christmas test? Or is it mainly just a television thing?

      • moz53 says:

        Many holiday makers from all over South Africa are in the Cape Town region over New Year and therefore the tickets for that test usually sell out quickly. I think only the serious cricket fanatic would travel to Cape Town for the cricket as their main incentive. I think most people are here on holiday anyway and the test just falls in within the leisure time they have available to them. So you might go to one or two of the days and watch the rest at home. Most people only attend a day or two and follow the rest on television. I think the fact that the New years test is associated with Cape Town, has to do with it being a popular holiday destination, especially beginning January when many people are still on leave from work and the schools haven’t opened yet.

  4. […] A Brief Note on Sports, Holidays, Television, and Traditions […]

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