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Kickoff Tradition

As families across the United States gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving, another cherished tradition takes center stage – football. The collision of these two American pastimes has become as iconic as turkey and cranberry sauce. The Thanksgiving Day football tradition dates back to the late 19th century when colleges and high schools began scheduling games on this holiday. In 1876, Yale and Princeton faced off in what is considered one of the first Thanksgiving football games. The concept gained popularity, and eventually, professional teams joined the festivities.

NFL Turkey Day Showdowns

In 1920, the NFL was founded, and Thanksgiving football became a staple of the league. The Detroit Lions embraced the tradition in 1934 by hosting a game on Thanksgiving Day, setting the stage for an enduring annual event. The Dallas Cowboys joined in the tradition in 1966, solidifying a football feast for fans across the nation.

Gridiron Rivalries and Legends

Thanksgiving football has given rise to some of the most memorable moments and legendary performances in NFL history. From iconic plays to dramatic comebacks, the holiday games have become a stage for gridiron greatness. Whether it’s the “Hail Mary” pass or a last-minute field goal, Thanksgiving football has a knack for producing nail-biting moments that linger in the hearts of fans. Players like Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and Brett Favre have etched their names into the Thanksgiving football annals with standout performances.

Family, Food, and the Gridiron

For many, Thanksgiving is synonymous with family gatherings, and the football games become a shared experience. The living room transforms into a mini stadium as generations come together to cheer for their favorite teams. The interplay of camaraderie and competition creates lasting memories, enhancing the holiday spirit.

Halftime Highlights

Beyond the gridiron action, halftime performances during Thanksgiving games add an extra layer of entertainment. From marching bands to star-studded musical acts, these intermissions become a spectacle within the spectacle, ensuring there’s something for everyone in the family.

Halftime Shows 

Packers at Lions – Jack Harlow

Commanders at Cowboys – Dolly Parton

49ers at Seahawks – Steve Aoki


Turkey Bowl Tradition

While the NFL takes center stage, Thanksgiving also inspires grassroots football games known as “Turkey Bowls.” These are informal matches played in backyards, local parks, or even on the beach, where friends and family members gather for some friendly competition before the main feast.

Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day

As families gather around the table to give thanks and indulge in a bountiful feast, another cherished tradition unfolds on the gridiron – the Detroit Lions taking the field on Thanksgiving Day. This enduring tradition has become a hallmark of American football, with the Lions playing a pivotal role in shaping the holiday sports landscape.

Origins of the Tradition

The roots of the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day tradition can be traced back to 1934 when radio executive George A. Richards purchased the team. Eager to boost attendance and promote the struggling franchise, Richards conceived the idea of hosting a Thanksgiving Day game. The granted his request, and the Lions faced off against the Chicago Bears in the inaugural Thanksgiving Day matchup. The Thanksgiving Day game became an instant success, drawing a capacity crowd to the University of Detroit Stadium. The Lions lost the game to the Bears, but the spectacle of Thanksgiving football captured the public’s imagination. Richards recognized the potential of this holiday showcase, and a tradition was born.

The Tradition Endures

Despite periods of struggle on the field, the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day tradition remains unyielding. Each year, fans eagerly anticipate the spectacle, making it a focal point of their holiday celebrations. The enduring nature of this tradition reflects the resilience of a team and its commitment to providing football enthusiasts with a unique and enduring Thanksgiving experience.

Closing Drive

As the day winds down and families settle in for the evening, the echoes of football games linger, adding a touch of excitement to the Thanksgiving memories. The blend of tradition, competition, and camaraderie creates a unique atmosphere that enhances the holiday spirit. In the grand tapestry of Thanksgiving traditions, football has woven itself into the hearts of millions, creating a ritual that bridges generations and adds an extra layer of excitement to the celebration. So as you pass the gravy and carve the turkey, don’t forget to savor the touchdowns and tackles that make Thanksgiving a true gridiron feast.


Thanksgiving Day Games

12:30 – Green Bay vs Detroit

4:30 – Washington vs Dallas

8:20 – San Francisco vs Seattle

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