Students discuss family Thanksgiving football traditions, impact on family

Addison Joyce

Thanksgiving is a time when many families get together and spend time with each other. That idea can look different for everyone. Students and staff around Carmel all have different ways of bonding with family, and many involve watching and playing sports recreationally.

Sophomore Kate Belanger is one of many students who has football traditions on Thanksgiving. She said her younger cousins come to town for the holidays and they like to play games before Thanksgiving dinner.

“We usually meet up with my cousins and we always play some variation of football or soccer,” said Belanger.

Not only are students participating in sports, but some are also avid football watchers during the Thanksgiving season. Some watch the NFL, while others watch college, and some watch both. Sophomore Nora Perkins said she spends her time over break watching football with her parents.

“We are very big IU football fans, but they don’t play during that time,” she said. “We watch the NFL when IU isn’t playing, and the Thanksgiving day parade is a given for my family.”

Sophomore Nora Perkins (left) celebrates as she watches a football game on TV with her dad.Perkins said she and her family are football fans who regularly watch IU games and the NFL. (Submitted Photo: Nora Perkins)

Watching sports on Thanksgiving is a trend not just within Carmel, but all around the nation. According to the Sports Media News Forum, 30.3 million viewers watched the Washington-Cowboys Thanksgiving day football game on Fox in 2020.

Like Perkins, Sandy Gardener, math teacher, said her family’s traditions are less focused on NFL and more on college football and high school football.

“We watch college football, but we will also watch the Carmel game if they’re in state [during break],” she said.

Gardener said a large part of her family lives outside of Indiana, which allows her family to have more localized traditions on Thanksgiving, like watching the Carmel State Finals. Every person has slightly different ideas on what to do as a family for Thanksgiving but many said football and sports bring people together.

Sophomore Kate Belanger looks at rosters for football teams playing on Thanksgiving. Belanger said that watching football on Thanksgiving allows her to spend more time with her older family members. Along with watching football, Belanger said she plays football with her family over break. (Gabby Saber)

For example, Belanger said playing football on Thanksgiving is a positive experience and it has strengthened the bond between her and her family members.

“I always see my cousins on Thanksgiving and we play together, I do think it makes us closer and we get along better at dinner because of it,” she said.

While Perkins has a smaller family, she said she agreed that spending time with family and friends (whether watching or playing sports) is a good bonding experience that many people share.

“Last year we watched the [Thanksgiving] game when my grandparents came over and we would have friendly bets on teams and it was really fun.” Perkins said.

While both Perkins and Belanger spend time with their families over Thanksgiving, they also find time to enjoy with their friends as well.

“I usually do a ‘Friendsgiving’ with my friend group. We don’t normally have a plan, it’s kinda just all of us getting together and spending time together. I think it’s super important to show your friends that you’re thankful for them,” said Belanger.

She said that while she doesn’t watch or play football with her friends for “friendsgiving”, she does sometimes play other sports and games.

“Sometimes if the weather is good we’ll go out and play volleyball or this other game we made up called ‘cake’. It’s similar to volleyball, but it goes quicker and it’s a lot more fun.” she said, “what we do kinda depends, but whatever it is it’s just good to spend time with them, especially around Thanksgiving and the holidays.”

Other common Thanksgiving tradition include watching the Rose Bowl or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Gardener said her family does both.

We don’t typically watch the NFL, but when it’s on we watch the Rose Bowl and mostly just college games,” Gardener said.

Gardener also said her family had a tradition of watching the parade that has continued through her family since she was a kid.

Watching football with family is beneficial in another way. A guest column from Johns Hopkins last month talked about how families who watched football together grew much closer over time. Families who didn’t spend as much time together during the year could bond and have fun together during Thanksgiving.

Belanger’s experience is an example of this perspective. She said that in comparison to everyday life, she spends much more time with her older family members over Thanksgiving when watching football, and her younger family members while playing football.

“It’s definitely good to spend time with family any chance you get.”  said, “Sometimes you take the people you love for granted, and I definitely think thanksgiving is a good excuse to spend quality time with everyone you’re thankful for.”

Darshini Shankar