Food. Family. Football. This Thursday everyone will gather around the table enjoying a hard-earned break from their 9-5 and will gather with family and friends, maybe some of which they haven't seen in a long time. They will share memories that have been made over the past year, accomplishments achieved, and maybe even reminisce about losses that have caused pain. Thanksgiving is built for that. But growing up in Detroit, Thanksgiving was also a little more than that.
Thanksgiving is a memory-making day
I grew up just south of the city, watching plenty of blue-collared Americans breaking their backs each and every week just to survive. There is no harder working group of people than Detroiters; it's what makes me most proud to call this city my Hometown. Thanksgiving is a special time that allows these people, a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle and just take a break.
It's a day that holds a special place in my memory as it usually involved getting together with my late grandmother and uncle and spending time. I cherish those memories because as the years pass on, I'm farther away from the days spent with my grandmother, who was one of my best friends. She had spent time as a “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II and worked to support my Uncle when he came back from Vietnam. But on Thanksgiving, she was just Grandma Reilly. And some of the best memories I have of being at her small house in Warren were gathered around the television, watching our team, the Lions.
Why is Thanksgiving different in Detroit?
Thanksgiving is a time when families gather, stuff their faces, and argue–mostly about politics or religion. The time we spend with our families is important, but when you're from Detroit, there's something else that is special about this Day of Thanks. In Detroit, turkey and Lions football go hand in hand. There is no separating the two. I love the time I spend with my family, but Thanksgiving for me is more than just a holiday to overeat, it's a day I get to spend with my extended family: Lions Nation.
A short history of Thanksgiving football
Detroiters are one of only two fan bases that get to watch their team every Thanksgiving. We get the opportunity to share our family time with our team.
The Lions played the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving in 1934, and their then-owner looked at it to draw more fans. The Lions have played on the holiday nearly every year since. The Lions of this era were not attracting big crowds, because the Detroit Tigers were considered to be the city’s main sporting attraction.
Their owner at the time, George A. Richards, was known as a savvy marketer. Playing on the holiday immediately drew more fans to games, even though the team has struggled through the decades.Matt Brennan, “The History of Football on Thanksgiving”, via rampnow.com
Thanksgiving football is about our families and our extended family: the Detroit Lions
The Lions have had three playoff teams in my lifetime–1991, when I barely knew what football was, 2011 when I was much more invested in the game, and 2014 when they were robbed in Dallas. Needless to say, they haven't always been a team worth following.
Yet, when people ask me who my team is, without hesitation my response is, “The Lions.” I'm neither afraid of their response, nor ashamed of my loyalty. And this is because it has been ingrained in the fiber of my being as I watched them growing up on Thanksgiving Day.
We share one of the most sacred days, designed specifically for family, with the Lions. They are welcomed into our homes spending three to four hours with each of us, while we gather around the table to share what we're most thankful for. When thoughts arise of Thanksgiving, the Lions are always a part of the plan. Some of my most longed-for memories involve the Lions, that's why when Thursday comes, I'll awaken with great anticipation for the time I'll spend with my family, and that includes the team that is a part of my extended family, the Detroit Lions.
I hope they make Grandma proud.