The Thanksgiving Parade We All Love to Love

If you’re like a lot of Americans, you’ve been watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ever since you were a little kid. The beautiful floats, the marching bands, the performers, the celebrities—who can resist it all? But do you know where this annual tradition started and why it’s become so popular? What’s the story behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Why do we love it so much?

Here’s a little look at the backstory for the Manhattan holiday parade that Americans love to check in with each year!

It's coming... 2 months away!!!! #macysthanksgivingdayparade

A photo posted by Oh Berta!!! Houston, Tx. (@maioman) on

How the Parade Got Started

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade first started in 1924—more than 90 years ago today—where it was dubbed as the Macy’s Christmas Parade. The event covered an entire city block and was designed to be a way to advertise the Macy’s department store. When more than 250,000 people came to check it out, Macy’s realized it had something good going, and the parade became an annual New York tradition. Here are some other timeline highlights:
  • In 1927, Macy’s had its first giant balloon in the parade, featuring Felix the Cat.

  • 1927 is also when the parade become the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

  • Mickey Mouse appeared in 1934, in a 40-foot-high balloon manned by 25 professionals.

  • In 1942, 1943 and 1944, the parade was canceled because of World War II.

  • 1948 was the first year the parade was televised, and it’s continued to be broadcast by NBC each year ever since.

  • Snoopy debuted in 1968 and stands today as the character who’s appeared most often in the event.

  • 2011 was the first year that balloons on tricycles—trycaloons—hit the scene.

  • Today, almost a full century after its beginning, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade now draws an average 3.5 million visitors to the Big Apple and an estimated 50 million TV viewers each year.

  • Macy’s Employees: Parade Participants

    At the first Macy’s parade, the participants were mostly employees participating in what was essentially a giant advertising campaign, although some professional entertainers were around to charm spectators. Today, there are on-staff professionals behind much of the parade, too.
  • Macy’s balloon designers start work on the next year’s designs a year in advance.

  • Macy’s balloon pilots go through extensive training, three times a year, before the parade.

  • The volunteers who walk with the balloons must meet specific weight and health requirements.

  • The Official Start of the Holiday Season

    Every year, the finale of the parade is the arrival of Santa Claus—a moment considered by many to mark the official start of the Christmas season. As the sleigh comes into view, Macy’s wishes everyone holiday greetings, and the tradition makes its annual conclusion.

    Rose Selvar - Nov 23, 2017
    I am not fond of parades. I don't ever watch them.
    Charles Martin - Nov 17, 2016
    Been watching that parade since 1966. My Grandfather had the first color TV I can remember.