Christmas Day games are a coveted gift from the NFL, giving fans the opportunity to merge football and holiday excitement. Football fans are treated to a spectacle that skillfully integrates the thrill of the game into the fabric of holiday traditions, as the nation's homes fill with the aroma of holiday feasts and sparkling lights. The NFL's Christmas Day games are more than just an extension of the regular season; rather, they're a unique blend of turf and tradition that come together as families across the nation huddle up in front of their TVs to celebrate. The NFL's introduction of Christmas Day games signifies an important turning point in the league's history, creating a bigger football presence associated with the holiday season and solidifying the gridiron's standing as a cherished holiday tradition.
Christmas Day Viewership
2023 marks 30 total Christmas Day NFL games and the fourth consecutive year of Christmas Day games. While the NFL held the first Christmas Day games back in 1971 during the Divisional Playoffs, they’re coming into the 2023 holiday bigger than ever before. On a day when families are gathered around the television looking for shared entertainment, the league aims to capitalize on increased viewership and a wider audience. New efforts have been made to net viewers, with the NFL scheduling their first ever triple-header this Christmas Day. The initiative should come as no surprise, as last year’s Packers and Dolphins game captured a record 30M viewers. The NFL looks to Christmas 2023 as an opportunity to expand their game into the festive holidays, adding great games that will entice families from all over the world to tune in.
Bring Christmas to the Stadium
The NFL's Christmas Day games infuse stadiums with a festive euphoria that goes beyond the confines of conventional sports events, creating a magical atmosphere. There's no denying the festive spirit in the air as fans flood into the venues decked out for the holidays. The stadiums are visually stunning, with oversized ornaments, brilliant Christmas lights, and life-size displays that immerse spectators in a wintry wonderland. Back in 2016, the Green Bay Packers transformed Lambeau Field, decorating the entire stadium with over 1000 feet of garland, 30 wreaths, and 14 Christmas trees to get their fans in the holiday spirit. And at this year's 49ers Christmas game, the NFL is taking Christmas-themed engagement to another level. Fans with the 49ers mobile app will be able to partake in a synchronized light show during player introductions. Whether you're watching from home or the stadium this year, you can experience a game environment that combines Christmas spirit with the intense passion of football.
Christmas Spirit on the Field
The players themselves add to the joyous atmosphere by dressing in unique holiday-themed uniforms that show off their team spirit and give the game a whimsical touch. For example, during the 2022-2023 season, Cleveland Browns tight end Pharaoh Brown wore a grinch outfit to his game to get fans excited about the holiday times. The sounds of well-known holiday songs permeate the crisp winter air, provided by energetic marching bands and halftime shows that enlist spectators in coordinated celebration. Last year, NFL fans were treated to Jason Kelce and the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line’s Christmas album, “A Philly Special Christmas.” With the help of Taylor Swift fans, Travis and Jason Kelce’s newest 2023 Christmas hit, “Fairytale of Philadelphia,” has now landed the #1 spot on iTunes. In addition to music, jumbotron displays with animated holiday characters and exclusive team-themed holiday merchandise giveaways add to the Christmas spirit. Now more than ever, Christmas is giving the NFL a chance to engage with fans in alternative, exciting ways.
Memorable Christmas Day Match-ups
Some of the most memorable games in football history have taken place on the NFL's Christmas Day slate. Back in 2005, we watched the legendary Bears vs. Packers rivalry game where the Bears were finally able to take down Brett Favre in a thrilling, long-awaited victory. Patrick Mannelly, the long snapper for the Bears recalls the moment: “It was just a great Bears-Packers memory and my favorite Christmas ever.” In 2016, during the Ravens-Steelers Christmas match-up, Ravens running back Le'Veon Ball rushed a record-breaking 236 yards. His standout performance captured the spirit of excellence in Christmas Day football. Year after year, the league carefully plans these matchups to include fierce rivalries and high-stakes confrontations that heighten the excitement of the holiday celebrations. Whether it's two teams vying for playoff positioning or historic rivals renewing their long-standing grudges, Christmas Day match-ups promise fans timeless moments under the twinkling lights of a festive stadium.
As past years have proven, Christmas Day NFL games are a huge success and a unique opportunity, bringing a special mix of athletic skill and joyous celebration to the holiday season. This year’s Christmas Day games should be no exception. While the NFL claims there will be no Christmas games in 2024 due to the holiday falling on a Wednesday, fans can still hold out hope. If 2023 garners high viewership and fan engagement, the league could succumb to the holiday spirit and make their very first exception in the coming year.