Holidays in Philly

5 tips to survive Christmas day with your Philly sports fan family

Prepare for guests to come early and stay late.

Dan Levy/Billy Penn

Christmas is a big day for millions upon millions around the world, but this year frankincense and myrrh are going to have to share some space under the tree with Embiid, Simmons and Agholor. (“If your Wentz is broken or missing any parts, do not return it to the store…”)

For the first time in history, both the Sixers and Eagles will be playing on Christmas day. The Sixers open the NBA’s annual slate of holiday classic games against the New York Knicks at noon on ESPN. To close out the night, the Eagles host the Oakland Raiders in the finale of NFL Week 16, also on ESPN. Yes, they’re going to bring up throwing snowballs at Santa. Deal with it.

Here’s what else you can deal with: Your drunk uncle who everyone hopes leaves early on Christmas, because he’s showing up in a kelly green Wentz jersey and staying until long past midnight. Prepare to keep the eggnog chilling, hot toddies steeping and an extra layer of plastic down on the couch. It’s going to be a long Christmas day.

Here are five tips to survive it.

1. Avoid talking about injuries

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This is like the sports equivalent of avoiding politics on Thanksgiving, but in Philly it’s somehow more serious than that. If you want to make your Philly sports fan family feel welcome, do put on the television when they arrive, showing highlights from the 29 previous times the Sixers have played on Christmas. Do show a replay from the time the Eagles beat Dallas on Christmas in 2006. Definitely do hand each of your family members an Eagles Santa hat when they arrive — you can still get them pretty much everywhere for cheap, though Sixers ones are harder to find . But whatever you do, do not talk about Joel Embiid’s back, Carson Wentz’s knee, Markelle Fultz’s shoulder or anything related to any sports injury in Philadelphia this year. Do not.

To a Philly sports fan, sharing thoughts on how our senators voted on the tax bill will be less stressful than discussing these injuries. Even innocuous questions like, “Can the Eagles still win without Wentz?” or, “So when is Fultz coming back, he’s been out for a while?” which SOUND like casual conversation topics to make your guests think you are interested in their answer, are nonstarters.

Do not do it. You’ve been warned, and you are welcome in advance.

2. Open presents early

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Your house might be different, but the tradition my kids have set up is that as soon as they wake up they get to open all their presents from Santa and a few from us and then save the rest from us and from family when relatives come later in the day for dinner.

But the Sixers play at noon, so try to open as many presents as you can early, especially if you bought anyone new Sixers gear they can wear around the house during the game. (I’ll take these in a size large, thanks.)

Note: You will never have enough time to open gifts during halftime. Do not suggest that. It never works.

If your guests plan to arrive just in time for the game you could, however, hold off on opening presents until later in the day. But if at all possible, get the gift exchange going before the game so those who want to watch the game can do so without being distracted and those who don’t can play with their new toys or get dinner ready. Speaking of which…

3. Tree to TV proximity is key

This tree-to-TV proximity is not ideal.

This tree-to-TV proximity is not ideal.

Dan Levy/Billy Penn

This is important to make the day run smoothly. Make sure your TV showing the games is not near a) your dinner table and b) your tree/presents opening area. In fact, if at all possible, put a “special” TV with the game on in another room, so those who want to watch the Sixers blow another late lead can do so without distracting the rest of your guests.

Just make sure the sports fans are close enough to both the food and the bathroom. Nothing else will matter to them until after the games are over.

4. Time dinner to perfection


The Sixers play the Knicks at noon and the Eagles play the Raiders at 8:30 p.m. but there are a ton of other games in between, and if your family is full of real sports fans, they’re not going to want to turn away when LeBron James plays Kevin Durant. Sorry, but Cavs-Warriors on Christmas is a big deal, even without Steph Curry.

Here’s the full sports schedule:

  • 12 p.m.: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks, ESPN
  • 3 p.m.: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors, ABC
  • 4:30 p.m.: Steelers at Texans, NBC
  • 5:30 p.m.: Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics, ABC
  • 8 p.m.: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder, ABC
  • 8:30 p.m.: Raiders at Eagles, ESPN
  • 10:30 p.m.: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers, TNT
Yeah...this guy's not leaving until after the Eagles game is over.

Yeah...this guy's not leaving until after the Eagles game is over.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The ideal Christmas food-and-gift schedule, therefore, is this:

  • 8-9 a.m.: Breakfast and presents, from Santa if that still exists in your house.
  • 9-11 a.m.: Prepare for a rush of early guests, change out of pajamas, take a deep breath or three.
  • 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Put finishing touches on hors d’oeuvres to have during Sixers game.
  • 12 p.m.-3 p.m.: Sixers game. It should be over by 2:30 p.m. but you should plan for overtime.
  • 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Dinner window #1.

Depending on your guests, you could sneak dinner in during this time, but make sure the meal is over before the fourth quarter of Cavs-Warriors. Plan to finish dinner no later than 4:30 p.m. or do not start it until 5:30 p.m.

  • 5:30 p.m -6:30 p.m.: Dinner window #2 and/or “family time”

This is a great time to throw on the Steelers game in the background and have some “non-sports” family time. If you don’t want an early dinner because your family is staying through the Eagles game,  this is the time to set dinner. If you’ve already eaten, you can do your presents at this point, before dessert.

  • 6:30 p.m.: Sweets.

Start dessert around 6:30 p.m. so everyone not staying for the Eagles game has time to get home before it starts. Also, remember that you do not want to entice people to linger. The closer you get to game time the more likely extra family will choose to stay for the game. And now you’ve got a house full of relatives for TWELVE FULL HOURS.

  • 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.: Clean up from the Christmas carnage in time for the game to start.

Make it clear to those not staying they are supposed to leave within this window.

  • 8:30 p.m. – Iggles.

Whoever is still in your house at this point is not leaving. Grab a blanket and enjoy the Foles show.

5. Beware of Steelers fans

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers

This is the Christmas wild card. There’s a good chance you might be inviting a Steelers fan into your home. This weekend’s game matters more to them than the Eagles game does to people here. If you’re really nice, you’ll have dinner done by 4:30 p.m, because that game won’t be over until half past seven and nobody wants to eat that late. That’s almost eight full hours for that uncle to get really drunk without a proper meal to fill his belly.

If you’re not nice, throw a TV in a spare bedroom or the basement or attic and make your Steelers fans — and your uncle — go there. Philly sports fans are tough to be around during the holidays, but nothing outside of a Cowboys fan is worse than a Steelers fan.

Merry Christmas.

Want some more? Explore other Holidays in Philly stories.

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