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As we approach the holiday season, I began thinking about the relationship between this time of year – in particular, Christmas Day – and sport/recreation traditions. Unlike my post a few weeks back which looked at watching sports – either as a spectator or on television – as a holiday tradition, this time I am wondering about playing sports on Christmas Day and whether these have become important traditions for us.
Growing up in Canada, normally part our Christmas Day tradition as kids was playing hockey – either at a local outdoor rink or, often times, just road hockey out front of the house. It wasn’t a particularly conscious tradition – this wasn’t watching a favourite Christmas movie every year or always having a particular meal on Christmas night – and, I suspect, these games were probably “strongly encouraged” by our weary parents looking for a bit of quiet. Still, I remember them quite vividly – and, given that many other Canadian friends and family had similar hockey-related traditions on Christmas Day, I imagine that there were broader cultural connotations. I also seem to recall that these Christmas Day hockey was a bit more egalitarian – that many more levels of ability were tolerated than at other times of year – though, of course, this may be nostalgia merging with memory.
Since moving to the South and, often, not having much family around on Christmas, I always take one of my dogs for a special Christmas walk through the Clemson University campus. In some ways, these walks were echoes of the Christmas walks I would take in Edmonton in my 20s and 30s (sans dog back then), where I would enjoy the quiet, the lack of cars on the streets, and the peace. Although I know these aren’t sport or necessarily recreation, at least in a structured sense, I guess they fall into something of an “active” Christmas tradition. As my son gets older – he is starting to understand Christmas a little more each year – I wonder what Christmas traditions we might develop and whether they will reflect something our cultural environment.
In any event, I guess I’m wondering if you have a Christmas sport/recreation tradition, and whether you see it having any larger cultural meanings?
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.