The Magic Behind Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

By Brooke Biggins

If you’re like me, Thanksgiving Day always starts with watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love watching the parade and seeing all the giant floats, the entertainers and the costumes that make up the fun and festive parade line. It marks the beginning of the Christmas season and that alone brings excitement! However, the parade wasn’t always like it is now. There weren’t always giant character balloons, and it wasn’t always about the holiday. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has come a long way from what it used to be, and the journey of making Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade what it is today is quite interesting.

Actually, the first Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t even start with Macy’s. It started with the Gimbel Brothers Department Store in Philadelphia. However, Macy’s took it to a whole other level. Macy’s Department Store went public in 1922, while New York was becoming more popular due to the roaring ‘20s. In 1924, Macy’s expanded their location to cover from Broadway to Seventh Avenue along 34thStreet, which is an entire city block. In honor of the huge expansion, Macy’s wanted to showcase the opening of the 1 million-square-feet retail space, it was dubbed the “World’s Largest Store.” They decided to host a parade on Thanksgiving morning. This parade was meant to announce Macy’s expansion, to celebrate Christmas, not Thanksgiving.

On the morning of Nov. 27, 1924, Macy’s began their first Thanksgiving Day Parade. This parade was nursey-rhyme themed, to go along with the store decorations that included classic Mother Goose favorites. They included floats of Little Miss Muffet, Little Red Riding Hood and The Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe. There were music bands and live animals that were brought in from the Central Park Zoo. And of course, at the end was Santa Claus and his sleigh! The crowd loved it! It was such a hit that two days later Macy’s announced they would host the parade again next year.

As the parade continued on in the years to follow, some changes had to be made. The live animals could no longer be used because they would frighten the crowds. Instead, giant character balloons, which have now become a signature piece, were introduced to the parade. The distance has also been shortened, going from a 6-mile walk down to 2.5 miles.

Watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition among many families. It’s a fun and wonderful celebration of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The one thing that has remained the same throughout all the years is the ending. Santa Claus still concludes the parade, standing in his sleigh with his reindeer, ushering the magical Christmas season.