Football on Thanksgiving Day

What's better than enjoying Thanksgiving meals with your loved ones? For those sports lovers out there... Football!!!!

Surprisingly, playing football on Thanksgiving goes back to the late 1860s after President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The first Thanksgiving Day football game took place in our city of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, 1869. The game took place in Germantown between the Young America Cricket Club and the Germantown Cricket Club.

Fun Fact: As you may know, Philadelphia was known to be the city of firsts! Read more about Philly's firsts here!

The thing was that this was not a football game!

The first, actual, football game took place 2 weeks before the Young America-Germantown game. It was the game between Rutgers University and Princeton University on November 6th.

The tradition of football being played on Thanksgiving Day grew through high schools. The first high school football game began in 1887 between Boston Latin School and English High School. It was played at Harvard University. "It is the longest continuous Thanksgiving Day rivalry in the country."

Clipping from Ambler Gazette (December 7, 1922): Page 1

Clipping from Ambler Gazette (December 2, 1926): Headline Page 7

Thanksgiving and the NFL

The first, professional, football game playing on Thanksgiving Day took place on November 25, 1920. It was mostly the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys who play on Thanksgiving Day. But it was the Detroit Lions that started it all.

It began in 1934 when a local radio executive named George A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, and moved them to Detroit, which is now known today as the Detroit Lions.

Back then, before the Detroit Lions moved to Detroit, the Detroit Tigers were the main sports team to watch. Richards had to find a way to attract fans to watch the Detroit Lions play. That was how he came up with the Detroit Lions playing on Thanksgiving Day. He made a deal with NBC Radio to broadcast the Detroit Lions game since he had the advantage of being a radio executive. Their first game was debuted on November 29, 1934 with the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.

"The 26,000 tickets for the Turkey Day clash in the University of Detroit Stadium, were sold out two weeks in advance of the game. It was estimated that another 25,000 would have attended had there been seats available."

- Pro Football Hall of Fame

Unfortunately, the Lions lost to the Bears 19-16. Thus, the tradition of NFL on Thanksgiving Day has begun...

Watch the ENTIRE history of Thanksgiving and NFL below!


LoRé, Michael. "A History of Football on Thanksgiving." culture trip. November 21, 2018.

"Thanksgiving and the NFL - Football History." Pro Football Hall of Fame. Accessed October 26, 2020.

"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed October 26, 2020.

#thanksgiving #football #detroitlions #philadelphia #philly #abrahamlincoln #holiday #ambler #cheltenham #doylestown #NFL #tradition #chicagobears #turkeybowl #amblergazette

5 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All