History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving is coming up, and with Thanksgiving comes the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Ashley Wandling

A Thanksgiving candle with fall leaves surrounding it.

By Ashley Wandling, Staff Writer

On Thanksgiving in New York, kids used to paint their faces and go door to door, pretending to be poor to get food. It became an annual tradition to do. Adults in New York thought of it as obnoxious and annoying, but the kids had a great time participating in this tradition. On November 24, 1924, the tradition changed, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began. Although it was held on Thanksgiving, it was used to promote the upcoming Christmas season. People came from all over New York to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and participate in shopping at the Macy’s store right after. The parade started out as the length of two blocks from Harlem to Herald Square in New York. Since it was so short, the parade lasted for only a few minutes.

The first parade consisted of floats decorated as characters and seasonal designs. Along with the floats, the parade had a variety of animals from the local zoo in cages. Workers from Macy’s dressed up as different characters, dancing alongside the floats and animals. In 1927, the live animals were replaced with character balloons filled with helium. The first helium character from a cartoon to be in the parade was Felix the Cat. Originally, the people holding the helium balloons to the ground, let the balloons go at the conclusion of the parade, and whoever found it received an award if they returned it to the Macy’s store that day. However, the balloons would sometimes pop mid-air, so they stopped letting them go.

Since the parade was originally to promote the Christmas season, Santa Claus made a special appearance at the conclusion of the parade. It became an annual tradition, and, as of the today, Santa still makes a special appearance as a parade tradition. Ever since the first showing of the parade, it has grown larger and lasts about one and a half hours. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been going on for 91 years, this year being the 92nd annual showing of the parade.