The Tradition Lives On! Catch the Lions Taking the Football Field on Thanksgiving

Allison DeGrushe - Author

Nov. 21 2023, Updated 1:14 p.m. ET

The Gist:

  • The Detroit Lions started its tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day back in 1934.
  • At the time, the team's owner thought it would be a good way to draw more of a crowd — and it ended up becoming a tradition.
  • The only period of time that the team didn't play Thanksgiving Day was between 1939 and 1944, because of World War II.
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Since the NFL's formation in 1920, the league has played games on Thanksgiving Day. For the last 89 years, one team in particular has kept up with the tradition — the Detroit Lions.

Luckily, this Thanksgiving proves no different because, on Nov. 23, 2023, the Lions will host the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field for a 12:30 p.m. EST match-up.

With a tradition almost as old as the league itself, you must be thinking there's a valid reason behind it. So, why do the Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving? Keep reading to find out!

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A photo of kids who are fans of the Detroit Lions
Source: Getty Images

Why do the Detroit Lions always play on Thanksgiving Day?

Gear up because this is going to be an intriguing history lesson. In 1934, the Detroit Lions began their Thanksgiving Day tradition. At the time, the team's owner, George A. Richards, noticed that they weren't drawing in enough of a crowd. So, the executive put his marketing skills to the test and decided to host a Thanksgiving game.

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Thankfully, the concept was a huge hit. The Lions sold out their stadium and even had to turn people away at the gates. Even though the Lions lost that year to the Chicago Bears, it didn't matter — a new and exciting tradition came out of it. Some fans are psyched about watching their team play every Thanksgiving, but others, not so much. If you aren't aware of the Detroit Lions' record on Thanksgiving, we will catch you up.

What is the Detroit Lions' win/loss record on Thanksgiving Day?

Since their first Thanksgiving Day game in 1934, the Lions have a record of 37 wins, 44 losses, and two ties. In their first five years, the Lions faced off against the Bears. Detroit earned three wins (1935, 1936, and 1938) and two losses (1934 and 1937).

The Lions didn't play a Thanksgiving Day game again until 1945 due to World War II. The Lions we all know and love to dislike arrived because they lost five games straight from 1945 to 1949.

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In the 1950s, the Lions secured eight wins and two losses, which gave fans confidence that their team might not be as bad as they thought. Unfortunately, that confident feeling vanished once the Lions only obtained two wins in the '60s. Yikes!

It just continues to get worse: The club fell short nine consecutive years in the 21st century (2004–2012). We don't want to set off any Detroit Lions fans because reliving this must be painful, so we'll stop there.

Are the Detroit Lions playing on Thanksgiving Day 2023?

Yes! This holiday season is no different, as the Lions will host the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.

The game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. EST, and you can catch it on Fox or stream it via the Fox Sports app, FuboTV, or Sling TV.

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