Similar to the New Years Eve ball dropping in New York City, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an event that is highly anticipated every year. First starting in 1924 on November 27th, it originally was a one-time event to showcase the new large Macy’s store which was 1 million square feet, with the intended purpose being retail.
The first one took place during the roaring ’20s, this being important as it was a time of prosperity and pleasure. Time and money could be used for these types of recreational events. To add more dramatic effect, the parade was not intended to highlight Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be a Christmas parade that took place a month before the holiday.
The idea for a parade was not original either. It stemmed from the influence of the Philadelphia Gimbel Brothers Department Store. Taking place in 1920 it consisted of 50 participants, 15 cars, and firemen who wore Santa Claus costumes.
The first Macy’s Thanksgiving parade was a success. Families loved it, even though the time of the parade overlapped with the church services of many civilians. The parade however did allow time for the football game later. Although the parade did not have a long distance to reach, six miles was a long commute for people going from Harlem to Herald Square, New York. The theme was nursery rhymes and floats featuring classics including Mother Goose, Miss Muffet, and many others. Workers wore everything from cowboys, to knights, to clowns. The parade embraced fantasy and everything that came with it. Since it was originally a Christmas parade the last float featured Father Christmas (Santa). His sleigh was displayed on a mountain of ice. When the parade came to its final destination at the Herald Square location thousands of spectators cheered.
Even with the success, the parade did not make a high impression with the press, getting only two brief sentences in the New York Herald. Regardless of the short recognition, the parade went on to become a tradition. The department store’s event became a highly anticipated thing of joy, the number of spectators growing each year even with the distance of the parade decreasing from six miles to two.
The parade has only been missed three times, all during World War II concerning the rubber shortages. The oldest float that makes a frequent appearance is Tom Turkey, gaining such popularity that he has become the unofficial mascot of the parade. Spectators keep a watchful eye for the feathered bird.
Broadcasting of the parade started in 1932 by radio until it soon became televised in 1946 only in New York. That changed the following year as it became nationally broadcasted on NBC. It is to be noted that the parade does cost a hefty price, the average price of a float ranging from 30,000 to 100,000 dollars. However, Macy’s benefits financially, despite spending hefty funds. . As of 2019, the company, in revenue from the parade, garnered 49.2 million dollars from the yearly tradition.
This year’s parade will consist of 15 large character balloons, 28 floats, over 800 clowns, 10 marching bands with nine other performances, and of course the man of the hour, Santa Claus!
This year will mark its 95th anniversary, typically around two to three million people view the parade however this year it is unclear due to COVID-19. The event will take place on November 25th from 9 am to noon. It is surely something to mark down on your calendar, as always it will be broadcasted on NBC.
Sources: Klein, Christopher. “The First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” HISTORY, https://www.history.com/news/the-first-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade. Accessed 10 Nov. 2021.