Christmas and the sports tradition

The Christmas Day tradition varies widely around the globe, but some classics are inevitably repeated, ranging from movies to sporting events. 

The ties between Christmas and sports are stronger in the UK and America. The UK, for example, has Boxing Day on December 26, a public holiday when all divisions of the British soccer and rugby leagues have their matches. For over a century, whole families have listened to and watched memorable matches together and created memories of togetherness around significant sporting events. Today we recall a few.


December 25, 1914: Truce between the Germans and the English 

Proving that some of the greatest moments in sports history take place outside the professional leagues, here is the famous Christmas truce. This was a friendly match between German and British troops at the height of World War I, depicted in the 2014 film "Joyeux Noel". Legend has it that the German troops won 3-2 and that it was the Germans who came up with the idea of wishing the British a Merry Christmas and a day of peace carrying Christmas trees and other treats to the front line of combat.  


NHL had Christmas until the 1970s

Starting in the 1920s and up until 1971, the NHL had matches every Christmas. Then, the NHL decided to end the 50+ year tradition so that its players could also have a little break. On the last and memorable hockey Christmas day, six matches were played. The final goal was scored by Stan Gilbertson, as his club, the California Golden Seals, defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1.


NBA: Bulls versus Nicks in 1986

This basketball match is considered a revelation event, propping into the spotlight two NBA giants at an early moment of their careers. On Christmas Day 1986, the clash opposed the Bulls, led by superstar Michael Jordan, and the Knicks, led by the legend-to-be Patrick Ewing. The Nicks won 86-85, but the match was primarily a sign that great basketball times were to come, with the Bulls and the Knicks always facing each other at Christmas and fueling an epic rivalry in the sport.


Phil Jackson reached his 1000th win in 2008

On Christmas Day 2008, the Phil Jackson-led Lakers took on the hated Boston Celtics, who had defeated the club months earlier. The game became famous mostly because Jackson became the fastest coach to get to 1000 wins.


The first woman in a Division I college game in 2002 

During the 2002 SEGA Sports Las Vegas Bowl, Katie Hnida became the first woman to play in an NCAA Division IA game, the highest college soccer league. Katie also became the first woman to score in a Division IA game in 2003 in a 72-8 blowout at Texas State University.


Kobe versus Shaquille

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal are legendary players that dominated the NBA for eight years. However, they did not get along. In July 2004, the Lakers traded O'Neal to Miami Heat, and shortly after that the NBA scheduled its first match for Christmas Eve. Bryant scored 42 points and drew O'Neal's fifth and sixth fouls, sending Shaquille to the bench with the teams tied 91-91. The game went to overtime, and Dwayne Wade would eventually lead to a 104-102 victory.


The longest game in NFL history

Flashback to 1971, the first Christmas to have a National Football League match broadcasted - and also its last. The match between the Chiefs and Dolphins took 3 hours and 21 minutes to complete. After double overtime, Garo Yepremeian finally gave the Dolphins the victory.


This year, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many ups and downs in sports competitions, notably when it comes to live audiences' participation in events. The NBA is expected to impose new rules in January. Until then, and with several players testing positive lately, there are many unanswered questions about the Christmas season - one of the most anticipated times for sports fans around the world - competitions' format. 

Whether you're competing or not, Move Sports wishes Merry Holidays to all its partners, clients, and sports fans around the world!