Sports and holidays go hand in hand. There’s the Fourth of July and baseball, Thanksgiving and football, Christmas and basketball… and now Christmas Eve and football, too. For most Bears players the opportunity to play on a special day and be a part of holiday celebrations is a special opportunity.
“For me growing up, sports was always a big thing in my household,” said Sam Mustipher. “That’s kind of where our communion was as a family. It was eat dinner as a family, whatever meal, then kinda congregate on the couch and watch whatever’s going on sports-wise, so that will be cool.”
They’re also appreciative of the opportunity to spend Christmas Day with families.
“I love Christmas,” Mustipher said. “My family is very big on Christmas. I think this will be our first Christmas where my brother (P.J. who plays on the defensive line at Penn State) is coming up, because fortunately they’re in the Rose Bowl. Then my parents are also going to fly here, hopefully make it in before the snowstorm. Then my father-in-law and brother-in-law will be with us too. This will kinda be the first Christmas we have since I left for school where everyone’s together, so it will be cool. It will be a fun one for sure.
“We’ll wake up, open gifts from Santa, open gifts from each other, then kinda go about our day. There will be football on, so that’s new. Normally Christmas Day is basketball for us, but there will be football on this one. Prolly, to be honest, be glued to the couch watching football as fans, but you know, dissecting the game like we do.”
“Normally we go to my grandma’s house, and everyone gets to open one gift,” said Jaylon Jones. “Just one though. Never, ever have I played on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so it’s going to be special.”
“My mom would always bring eggnog home,” said Jaquan Brisker. “That’s one of my favorite drinks, especially during Christmas time… We’ve gotta have eggnog in the house, then the tree has to be lit up by the time the eggnog comes.”
Not everyone will get the chance to be reunited with family, however. Jones said his holiday will probably be boring, since he’ll be home alone. He’ll video chat with family as they open presents and maybe throw on a Christmas movie or two, but it won’t be the same. Others are so focused on the task at hand they’re barely aware it’s the holiday season.
“It just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me just because I’ve never not been with my family, or home for Christmas,” said Braxton Jones. “I can tell you it feels nowhere near Christmas to me. It feels like we’re still a couple months out.”
“I don’t even think about it,” said Nick Morrow about playing on Christmas Eve. “I played my rookie year on Christmas and it wasn’t a thing for me, so I guess that’s what started me not thinking about it.”
Players had all sorts of different Christmas traditions, from Brisker’s eggnog, to the Mustiphers watching sports, or the Morrow family collecting nutcrackers. The one tradition that came up the most was watching at least one Christmas movie.
“‘Friday After Next,’ some people say it’s not a Christmas movie, but that’s definitely my favorite one,” said Jones. “Another one is ‘This Christmas’ with Chris Brown. I’m not really into ‘The Grinch’ type stuff.”
“Polar Express,” said Brisker.
“Home Alone,” said Mustipher. “Polar Express, love Polar Express. Probably Elf. And really, Home Alone 1 or 2. That’s interchangeable for me.”
We’ll see if celebrating big upset wins is added to the list this Saturday.