Thanksgiving and football: Two holiday traditions

One of the great all-time Thanksgiving traditions is, without a doubt, football. And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys playing. If you’re not a football fan, the appeal of the pigskin on turkey day may be lost on you. But if you’re a diehard football fanatic, Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated days of the season.

Once upon a time, football on Thanksgiving used to be popular at the high school and college level. And since 1920, professional football matchups have taken place. While there are still high school and college games throughout Thanksgiving weekend, the NFL has become synonymous with Thanksgiving and ranks right up there with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie.

Two teams you can always count on playing on Thanksgiving are the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. The Lions Thanksgiving tradition dates back to 1934 when the team took on the Chicago Bears with 26,000 in attendance. The Lions have played every Thanksgiving since then, except for 1939 through 1944.

The Cowboys (also known as “The team you love to hate”) began their Thanksgiving stint in 1966. With the exception of missing two years in 1975 and 1977, they have played year in, year out on the holiday.

Because two football games weren’t enough on Thanksgiving, the NFL added a third game in 2006, with a rotating team getting the honors to play. Here are the NFL matchups for 2011 on Thanksgiving:

The Green Bay Packers take on the Detroit Lions at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time on Fox. Then at 4:15, it’s the Dallas Cowboys’ turn as they play host to the Miami Dolphins. That game airs on CBS. And the final Thanksgiving football battle is between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. Game time is at 8:20 p.m. and airs exclusively on the NFL Network.

Christmas traditions

Christmas is a time to reflect, reconnect with friends and family and celebrate all the wonderful things in our lives. Here are some of the many ways families in America celebrate the holiday by way of Christmas traditions.

Decorating house with lights – High electric bills be damned! Putting up the Christmas lights usually starts happening right after Thanksgiving. Taking them down afterwards is a different story.

Leaving milk/cookies for Santa – This might be the quintessential Christmas tradition. The kids love it (and presumably the parents, er, Santa, enjoys it as well).

Volunteering – Many people feel Christmas is a time to give back to their community and will volunteer serving meals and helping those in need.

Christmas caroling – If you don’t mind a roaming pack of singers showing up on your doorstep and belting out a song, you will love it. If you’re in a cranky mood and carolers start knocking on the door, you may not answer, you Scrooge.

Cookie swap – Christmas cookies are in abundance during the holiday season, which is why co-workers and friends often participate in cookie swaps. What’s not to love?!

Christmas cards – A tradition that predates e-mail is sending out Christmas cards along with a letter inside that recaps what the family has been up to the past year.

The Nutcracker – Going to the local theater (or dressing up and trekking into the big city) to go see The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition for those with young kids. It’s unclear why we make kids sit through The Nutcracker, but so be it.

Opening one gift on Christmas Eve – Only because the kids bug parents incessantly do the little ones get to open one of their presents on Christmas Eve. Can’t they just wait? (No, they can’t!)

Going to pick out a Christmas tree – This is one tradition that seems like a good idea. But once you’re at the tree farm and you’ve somehow got to strap a 15-foot tree to the roof of your car, you will ask yourself why you didn’t stick with an artificial tree.

Collecting ornaments – Decorating the Christmas tree is a tradition in and of itself. So is buying a new ornament every year and adding it to the collection. At some point your basement becomes cluttered with these things, but that is what green and red storage bins are for.

Other Christmas traditions in America include watching football, going to the local Christmas parade, setting up nativity scenes in the front yard, driving around looking at lights on houses, reading Christmas stories before bed on Christmas Eve, attending midnight mass and of course, wishing for a White Christmas.

The best Thanksgiving foods of all time

When it comes to Thanksgiving, eating until you’re stuffed is par for the course. While the main course usually consists of turkey, there are plenty of awesome foods that we get to chow down on while we celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

Nothing beats turkey for Thanksgiving. And there are plenty of ways to prepare turkey including roasting, braising and grilling. But perhaps the most delicious way to enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving is deep-fried turkey.

Honey-glazed ham is right up there with turkey for best Thanksgiving food. Spiral hams are delightful, especially when paired with rich and flavorful mustard. Plus, leftover ham makes for a great sandwich.

As long as there are potatoes on the Thanksgiving menu, you know it’s going to be a great holiday meal. Scalloped potatoes are a favorite. Mixing cheddar with potatoes can take them to that elusive “next level” of awesomeness. Sweet potatoes are also a Thanksgiving treat that are hard to pass up.

Fresh-baked rolls are just so good on Thanksgiving! Put a small slab of butter on a crescent roll that is just out of the oven and still warm—nothing could taste better! Except perhaps, dipping the rolls in hot gravy. “Pass the rolls please” is a request you’ll hear a lot at the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Stuffing yourself with stuffing is a Thanksgiving pastime that everyone loves. Stuffing is the best when you skip the Stove Top and make your own from scratch. It’s a great comfort food and goes well with turkey. And it’s made all the better with … you guessed it, gravy!

Thanksgiving traditions we love

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the important things we have in our lives. It’s about reconnecting with family and friends, going back home and eating a lot of food!

Is there anything more comforting and nostalgic than coming home? That is if things haven’t changed too much. Coming home helps us reflect on our past, where we’re at in our lives presently and where we’re going in the future.

The night before Thanksgiving is often called the biggest party night of the year. Meeting up with college or childhood friends at the local bar and enjoying a few adult beverages is a fun tradition, especially for the younger folks. Woo hoo!

If you enjoy watching football, you may as well camp out in front of the television all day and night on Thanksgiving. College and NFL games are broadcast each year and there is plenty of football coverage on ESPN to flip over to during halftime.

Americans love parades, especially on Thanksgiving. There are at least four major Thanksgiving parades in the U.S. including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York), 6abc  IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade (Philadelphia), America’s Thanksgiving Parade (Detroit) and McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago).

Making a wish with the wishbone from a turkey is a great tradition, especially for the kids. Gather everyone around the table, get two people to tug at each end of the wishbone and whoever gets the bigger part of the bone will have all their wishes come true! (OK, maybe not, but it’s a nice thought …)

Community participation is a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday. A lot of runners will participate in local 5Ks, affectionately named turkey trots. And people spend Thanksgiving helping others, by serving meals to those in need and visiting with residents in nursing homes.

Meal preparation on Thanksgiving can be a lot of work, although it’s more fun when others chip in to help. Carving the turkey is a fun tradition as well and all the hard work and holiday planning pays off when it’s dinnertime!

Here’s to hoping your Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and that you get to give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday movies for the whole family

At some point during the holidays, everyone seems to congregate around the TV. Or maybe it’s just some overwhelmed family members looking to break away for a few minutes of relief from their overbearing in-laws. There’s a good chance that one of these holiday films will be on as you’re flipping through the channels looking for a football game or to check ESPN for sports highlights.

The Polar Express – Some people say this animated film is the best Christmas movie ever. One thing is for sure; seeing is believing.

The Sound of Music – The screen soars to new heights in this 1965 musical that captures the happiest sound in the world. Yup, that’s right. The hills are alive with the sound of music. Right on!

Muppet Christmas Carol – It’s a classic Christmas tale, but with a twist: It features the case of The Muppets, starring Kermit the Frog. It’s a holiday movie that even Scrooge himself can’t help but love.

Home Alone – This Christmas crack-up is heavy on the yuks and slapstick. It’s a downright silly tale of a kid left behind by his parents during the holiday season and how he fends off two would-be robbers.

White Christmas – Take a trip back in the time machine to 1954 and be charmed by Bing Crosby in this awesome song and dance fest that also features Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney.

The Grinch (Jim Carrey) – For us adults, the real-life remake of The Grinch doesn’t compare to the original Dr. Seuss animated special. But the kids, they seem to eat this film up.

The Nightmare Before Christmas – When Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, discovers a new holiday, his world is turned upside down. A wholly imaginative holiday classic from Tim Burton.

Miracle on 34th Street – The trailer for this 1947 classic boasts, “You’ll Love ‘Miracle on 34th Street’” and well, that is pretty much the case. A timeless Christmas classic.

Elf – Buddy the Elf only has one mission in life: To find his biological father. Imagine an adult elf in New York City, played perfectly by Will Ferrell. Hilarity ensues.

A Christmas Story – Too many people have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Not Ralphie, who has his eyes set on a Red Rider BB Gun.