Sports & American Holidays – Rooted in Traditions

By Brenna Kehew Sculley

by Elysian Magazine

Sports and holidays in America have a strong tradition. Televised games fill rooms with the background noise and distraction needed for a seamless day. Outdoor events get families in the right frame of mind and body for a day of feasting, and small family traditions are founded in the fun of sports. 

For football fans, and those who prefer the couch, NFL has featured football games on Christmas day since 2004, this year amping it up to three games. Christmas games are especially impactful as they are closer to playoff season, so they will be exciting. While the NFL Thanksgiving games are iconic, and a tradition since 1920, these games provide watercooler moments and are fun in a unifying way because pretty much everyone – whether they are from Dallas, Detroit, or anywhere in-between – is at home, hanging out, and watching the nailbiters play out.

A longer tradition come Christmastime, the NBA has provided 75 years of Christmas baskets, delighting those families hanging around the house, looking for some entertainment the everyone can enjoy. The NBA has special jerseys, and usually a lot of festive commentary, not to mention high-quality games. A newer tradition, but one that is hugely popular, is the NHL Winter Classic held on New Year’s Day. Held in outdoor baseball stadiums, these cold but fun events are a great way to celebrate your favorite team, so bundle up and make some memories.

Beyond just watching, embracing a sport is a way to bring the family together – and off the couch. At every holiday, you can hear cheers across the house as my annual family putting tournament goes into its playoff round. It’s a cozy day, and the little competition adds some necessary excitement. We set up a roll-up putting green in the hallway, and every person in the family gets three putts to prove their PGA worth. And on those rare, beautiful winter days when December doesn’t seem so chilly, nothing excites my nephew more than a little football in the yard. We do our best Kennedy impressions and toss the ball around for some energy and laughs. Getting fresh air when a big family gets together brings a bright spirit to the gathering. Without these traditions, our day would lose a little luster, the competitive spirit invigorating our day with fun.

Heading to the slopes and searching out a white Christmas is one of the best ways to get exercise and engage in some friendly competition. While the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the busiest of the ski season, those who head out on Christmas Day itself are welcomed by no lift lines and quiet. For those luckily enough to get snow on Christmas, a family sledding adventure is the best way to tire out the kiddos and get exercise, or head to an ice-skating rink for some manufactured cold and exercise. 

Along the seacoast are polar plunges on New Year’s Day. Having done this once myself on a cold Rhode Island beach, these are not for the faint of heart. They are often connected with a charity initiative to raise money for the Special Olympics, and they are a great way to shake the leftover dregs of a New Year’s Eve party.

However you make sporting traditions a part of your holiday, there is a unity across the country as we tune in to exciting matches, and gear up for friendly family tournaments. Enjoy your holiday sporting traditions and make them great!

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