History of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Of all the Thanksgiving traditions that emerged over the last century, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the most enduring and beloved. For generations, floats, balloons, bands and revelers have marched through the New York streets to bring cheer and an official opening to the holiday season. Generations of children have eagerly awaited the colorful displays of pageantry and celebration.

The parade originated in the 1924 by employees of the Macy's department store. Borrowing heavily from European festival-style parades, the employees organized floats, costumes, bands and borrowed animals from Central Park zoo. In that first parade, the longstanding tradition of Santa Claus ending the parade was begun.

So many people watched the parade that first year-approximately 250,000-that the department store declared that the parade would occur the next year as well. With each subsequent year gathering more people to watch, Macy's declared the event to be an annual Thanksgiving tradition for New Yorkers. By 1933, more than a million people lined the streets to watch the parade.

The helium-filled balloons, so identified today with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, first appeared in 1927, with a Felix the Cat balloon. The popular cartoon character started the tradition of parade balloons featuring popular animated characters. Notable characters joined the parade, such as Mickey Mouse in 1934, Snoopy in 1968, Kermit the Frog in 1977, Spider Man in 1987, Goofy in 1992, Little Bill (the first African American character) in 2002 and Shrek in 2007.

The parade has some interesting footnotes as well. During World War II, the parade was not held from 1942 through 1945 due to severe rationing for rubber and helium. In 1945, the parade was held and received national attention when it was featured in the film classic, Miracle on 34th Street in 1947. The first national broadcast of the parade was given in 1952 and NBC has done the broadcasts since 1955. Today, more than 44 million people tune in on Thanksgiving morning to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and kick off the countdown to Christmas.

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