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History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions as a kid was turning on the television the moment I woke up  and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.   Now that I’m an adult, it’s still one of my favorite traditions; my family and I watch it together every Thanksgiving. 

As you know, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been around for a very long time, but have you ever wondered how it all started?  Well if you have, then you’re in for a treat as you’re about to learn all about the history of this famous parade! 

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (often shortened to the Macy’s Day Parade) is the most popular parade in America and has been a New York tradition since 1924.  But did you know that the first parade actually took place on Christmas Day?  Macy’s first held the parade to attract attention to the Macy’s store in New York City, and Macy’s employees dressed as clowns, cowboys and other costumes and traveled with floats and borrowed animals from the Central Park Zoo.  The parade travelled from Herald Square to Harlem in Manhattan.   Over 250,000 people attended the first parade, and it was such a success that Macy’s decided to make it an annual event. 

 Photo from the First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s has held the Thanksgiving Day Parade  every year since 1924, with the exception of three years.    Macy’s did not hold their annual parade from 1942-1944 during World War II, and  the rubber used to make the parade floats was donated to the Military during this time.   More than two million people attended the parade when it resumed again in 1945. 

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was first broadcast on the radio in 1932, and it was first broadcast on television in 1939.  NBC was the first station to broadcast the parade, and it is still considered the official broadcast station of the parad;  CBS also broadcasts the parade “unofficially”.  50 million viewers tune in to watch the parade each year. 

The first balloon to take part in the Macy’s parade was Felix the Cat in 1927.  Seven years later in 1934, Disney joined the parade and introduced the Mickey Mouse balloon.  Snoopy-the Peanuts character created by Charles Schulz,  has the most Thanksgiving Day Parade floats with six different balloons since 1968.  Today, the parade features over a dozen balloons, including, Spider Man, Hello Kitty and Spongebob Squarepants to name a few. 

Felix the Cat, the First Macy’s Day Parade Balloon 

A popular figure at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is Santa Claus, who makes his appearance at the end of the parade to welcome the beginning of the Holiday Season.  Santa Claus has been part of the parade since the  first parade in 1924, however, at the first parade The Jolly Old Elf was also in attendance, and sat on a throne on the Macy’s balcony at the 34th Street store entrance where he was crowned “King of the Kiddies”. 

The Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade now features nearly 30 parade floats, 1500 dancers and cheerleaders, more than 750 clowns, several marching bands from all over the country, and over 8000 participants.  On average, 3.5 million people attend the parade each year. 

Modern Day Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a tradition for American families for eighty eight years, and will continue to be a tradition for many years to come.  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the parade’s long history,  and that you will enjoy this year’s parade as well.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving! 


Sources: NYC Tourist, Wikipedia

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Ericka @Chef PickyKid and Me

I love to cook and entertain for family and friends, and I especially love being in the kitchen with my daughter who loves to cook as well. I enjoy making recipes that are easy to prepare and use ingredients most people have in their kitchen. Visit me at!

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