For most people, Christmas Day is primarily a time for family, for exchanging presents and for indulging in a Christmas feast.

For others, that feast comes in sporting form. American audiences have long been treated to NBA and NFL fixtures on Christmas Day, while football and cricket have also made it happy holidays for sports fans in the past.

That is, of course, unless your side loses on Christmas Day...


For many Europeans, the notion of sport on Christmas Day sounds bizarre. For Americans, the idea of no sport on Christmas Day is equally jarring.

The NBA remains the world’s foremost basketball league by some distance, with the leading players well accustomed to Christmas matches.

The first NBA match to be screened on television took place in 1947, a staggering statistic that reflects Americans’ long-running love affair with both basketball and televised sports.

This will be the eleventh consecutive Christmas to host five NBA matches, and some may suggest that players have grounds for complaint.

While most people can cherish time spent with family, these sports stars are expected to maintain their incredibly high professional standards.

Fortunately, many NBA players are appreciative rather than resentful towards the Christmas Day fixture.

Last year, Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson spoke of the honour of playing such a match, while reminiscing of happy Christmases spent watching the NBA.

LeBron James has been somewhat less grateful of the NBA Christmas schedule.

In 2015, the legendary player voiced his disapproval at having to play for a tenth Christmas in his then 13-year career, citing the disappointment at missing out on family time.

If a player of James’ stature can’t force a change to the schedule, then it would have to take a Christmas miracle to move fixtures away from December 25th.

For James, the equivalent of opening new socks each Christmas is playing a match against the Golden State Warriors. With the Cavaliers, James lost to the Warriors on Christmas Day in both 2015 and 2017, while prevailing in 2016.

The LA Lakers offer no escape for James, with the Lakers scheduled on Christmas Day every year this century and set to do battle with the Warriors this year.

With the Warriors 1/2 favourites to win the NBA crown once again, it could be a doubly disappointing Christmas for James this year.



The NFL doesn’t have as rich a tradition of Christmas Day matches as its American sporting cousin, the NBA.

The Super Bowl is still the definitive American sporting event, so the NFL is happy enough to concede Christmas to the NBA.

The NFL has become synonymous with Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, but Christmas is one special day that it is largely left alone.

In 1971, two playoff fixtures took place on December 25th as an anomaly rather than the beginning of a trend.

The second of those matches, Miami Dolphins vs Kansas City Chiefs, became the longest game in NFL history, featuring almost 23 minutes of sudden death play as the Dolphins triumphed 27-24.

This extreme length exacerbated pre-existing concerns about Christmas sport detracting from the joys of the holiday, with many complaining that the protracted match ruined many a Christmas dinner.

This outrage ensured that there were no more NFL matches on Christmas until 1989. Since then, NFL matches have been held on Christmas sporadically, dependent on the day of the week on which Christmas falls.

The past two Christmas Days have both hosted two NFL fixtures, but 2018 will instead see the Denver Broncos take on the Oakland Raiders on Christmas Eve.



Premier League matches have now become an established part of many Monday nights, while they even throw in a Friday night game on occasion to catch out fantasy football managers.

One day that does appear to be safe from English football is Christmas Day, but it wasn’t always the case. There was a long-running tradition of Christmas Day fixtures, with a full schedule of matches being played as late as 1957.

Blackpool and Blackburn contested the last English league match to be played on Christmas Day in 1965.

Blackpool won 4-2 in a match that was played without festive fanfare. Christmas Day now seems untouchable, but players from that match recalled how festivities barely made an impact on the important pursuit of league points.

Another tradition from that time was for clubs to play the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, a stark contrast to the questions now over whether players should play on both Saturday and Tuesday.

Players' fitness has increased since the 1960s, while defences may have got slightly better, too; the top-flight Boxing Day fixtures in 1963 yielding a staggering 66 goals across 10 matches.

The tradition of Boxing Day football remains strong, with nine Premier League matches scheduled for December 26th in 2018.

Southampton vs West Ham has been saved for 27th December to drag out that festive feeling for an extra day.

Hopefully, Southampton fans receive nice presents from friends and family to soften the blow of a tough season; at 14/1 to finish in the Premier League top 10, the Saints will still be embroiled in a relegation battle by the time St Nick has visited.



Cricket may be coming back to Christmas Day in Australia in the coming years, with cricketers rumoured to be receptive to the idea of playing a Big Bash League match on December 25th.

The BBL boss Kim McConnie has stated that some afternoon/evening cricket could provide the perfect antidote for that Christmas Day lull that comes after dinner.

Cricket on Christmas Day is not a new concept in Australia, with the Boxing Day Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground a popular part of Australian festivities.

It is particularly popular as Australia generally prevail, unbeaten since an English victory in December 2010.

In 1926, South Australia and Queensland began a tradition of competing in a Sheffield Shield match that required play on Christmas Day, a tradition that lasted until 1969.

There are also instances of Test matches breaching December 25th, with Australia taking on India in a match that you might think lives long in the players' memories.

In fact, many of the Australians barely recall how the match that started on December 23rd carried on right through Christmas Day.

The drama and popularity of the Big Bash League might be enough to bring cricket back to Christmas, with casual fans being drawn to the sport in its more streamlined forms.

The league is fiercely contested, reflected in competition favourites Perth Scorchers barely being ahead of the chasing pack at a price of 4/1.

While the joy of your preferred team winning on Christmas can make the day even more memorable, a defeat could potentially dampen spirits.

For some people, watching sport in the Christmas period is as much of a tradition as sitting down to watch a festive film.

If a sport has no matches on Christmas Day, then there will likely be many fixtures on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day.

Those two days are widely considered as special, so perhaps sport on December 25th shouldn't be an issue as long as the players are content.


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.