[Editor's Note: This post was originally published last year.]
Thanksgiving dinners and football may be proud American traditions, but nowadays, they don’t figure very heavily into life at Georgetown. That wasn’t always the case. Students used to celebrate Thanksgiving Day all together on campus (forget skipping your Wednesday classes) and Georgetown University used to annually host the Washington Thanksgiving Game—the most popular football game in town.
Beginning in the 1850s, Georgetown began to throw a yearly Thanksgiving Day feast for its students, which Georgetown’s Southern students referred to disparagingly as “Yankee Christmas.” The turkey dinner, Robert Curran writes in The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University, took place after a High Mass and came “with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie.”
By the 1880s, a concert that included performances by the Georgetown Banjo Club, Mandolin Club, and Glee Club rounded out the night.
Georgetown began to host the annual football game by the turn of the century, and at the time, it was the place to be in Washington on Thanksgiving Day. Attendance was regularly in the thousands. It was a time when college football was a brutal affair and it wasn’t uncommon for players to incur injuries that resulted in death.
That was the case for a Georgetown halfback, George Bahen, in 1894, when he was paralyzed in a game against the local Columbia Athletic Club.