The History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


Kelly Garcia, Writer

Each year, millions of viewers tune in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and over three million New Yorkers line up to watch the parade in person. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade originated on Thanksgiving in 1924, and it has become an American tradition.

In 1922, Macy’s opened its first location in Herald Square, and eventually many more locations were added over the years. Two years later, in 1924, Macy’s in Herald Square expanded and reached from Broadway all the way to Seventh Avenue along 34th street. Macy’s became known as the “World’s Largest Store” since it covered 1 million square feet. To promote their company, Macy’s hosted a parade on Thanksgiving Day. However, the parade started off as a Christmas parade so customers would shop for the holidays in their store.

On Nov. 27, 1924, Macy’s hosted their first Christmas-themed parade at nine a.m., which interfered with masses in churches, but did not interfere with televised football games. The participants in the parade marched from Harlem to Herald Square, a total of six miles.

Since the Macy’s Christmas window display was nursery-rhyme themed that year, the floats in the parade included nursery characters, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Little Miss Muffet. Also, live animals, such as bears, elephants, camels, and monkeys, were borrowed from the Central Park Zoo to create a circus environment with the live bands that performed. Standing at the end of the parade was Santa Claus, sitting in his sleigh on a mountain of ice with reindeer leading the way.

Eventually, the zoo animals were replaced with character balloons because of the dangers that the animals could potentially cause to the spectators. The animals roared and growled at people, and the parade participants had to watch out for animals as they marched. In 1927, a Felix the Cat balloon became very popular and one of the parade’s signature attractions.

After three hours, the parade finally ended in front of the Macy’s store in Herald Square at noon, and thousands of people greeted Santa with a smile. The parade was a huge success, and the next day, Macy’s announced  that they would host the parade again the next year.

The parade has changed throughout the years. The route of the parade is now two-and-a-half miles, and the name is now the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” The size of the parade has increased, since there are many more balloons, marching bands, celebrities, and cheerleaders.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be celebrating its 90th year, and NBC is hosting The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 90th Celebration on November 23 at 8PM ET. The special will be an hour long, and it will discuss the changes of the Parade throughout the years, the process of creating the balloons and floats, the most unique costumes, and the final touches that are put into the parade. Viewers also get a sneak peek at the parade that will air the next day, November 24.

Every year, new balloons and floats are added to the parade to correspond with modern movies, shows, and activities that year. There are multiple new floats that will be introduced this year, such as King’s Hawaiian “Aloha Spirit,” which includes a running waterfall and confetti-spewing balloon, the Krazy Glue “Fun House,” which involves a spinning living room, and “Deck the Halls” by Balsam Hill, featuring a moving carousel and a three-story high Christmas tree. Despite all of these changes and new additions every year, Santa Claus is still the main event, and he rings in the beginning holiday season at the end of the parade.