Thanksgiving and Football: A Unique American Tradition

Father and Children Playing Football

For many of us in the United States, Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to share a wonderful meal with family and friends, to give thanks for all of the good things that have taken place, and to watch or play football.

Though football was not part of the first Thanksgiving, it has become a tradition in many of today’s Thanksgiving celebrations. For some it means going to a local stadium to watch their school play a rival as part of something known as the “Turkey Bowl.” For others it means gathering around the television set to watch their favorite college or professional team celebrate Thanksgiving on the gridiron. And for some families it isn’t Thanksgiving without a family touch football game.

Advertisement from El Paso Herald, November 28, 1917

The Library of Congress has a number of resources on football and on celebrating Thanksgiving.

Have students consider why they think football has become associated with Thanksgiving. What can they learn from these images about the history of this association?

Are there other sports they think could replace football as a Thanksgiving tradition? Why do they think these sports are more appropriate?

Have students look at some of the articles on work to reform the game of football at the collegiate level found in Chronicling America, the historical American newspaper project. Students can pretend they are on the committee discussing football reform and can debate the safety of football using the material in the newspapers. They can also compare the debate then to the debate about the safety of football players today. How many of the arguments from 1905 are still valid today?



  1. Chloe Battles
    November 5, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I was wondering if this is a credible website to gather information from for a report I’m writing about Thanksgiving?

  2. Danna Bell
    November 10, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Hi Chloe, I would encourage you to talk to your teacher or school librarian and ask one of them for assistance. They will be able to help you to determine if this site is creditable or not.

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