Magnificent Macy’s

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade- 1924 (from

Annelyse Zaccaria, Staff Writer

Every Thanksgiving, families across the entire country of America gather together, cook and bake delicious dishes, and join in a feast to give thanks and remember the first Thanksgiving. Furthermore, the ever famous “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” takes place and stands as the commencement of this wonderful holiday. In fact, watching the giant balloons and performances take place either on our television screens or in-person, has fascinated Americans, young and old, for decades. But did you ever wonder when the first of this iconic American tradition took place, or how it all began?

The department store known as “Macy’s” (called “R.H. Macy & Co.” at the time) was growing immensely in popularity during the beginning of the 1920s, and stationed its main and largest store in New York City. To encourage Christmas shopping at Macy’s specifically, it decided to host a parade that would excite others for the upcoming Christmas season. Therefore, Macy’s featured a large advertisement in a newspaper in 1924, which announced that “a marathon of mirth” would occur at 9:00 am on November 27 (the day Thanksgiving fell in 1924). Although this particular time interfered with the schedules of those who attended Thanksgiving church services that morning, thousands of spectators awaiting an afternoon football game came out to crowd the streets in anticipation of this widely advertised Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

This first Thanksgiving Day Parade (which spanned six miles in length) included nursery-rhyme-themed floats such as ‘Little Miss Muffet’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ along with many of Macy’s employees that were dressed up as cowboys, knights, and clowns. Furthermore, live animals were featured in the event, such as bears, elephants, and monkeys, while a circus band played marching music. Lastly, the ever-popular Santa Claus float approached the crowds on the streets of New York, with a mountain that held Santa Claus sitting in his sleigh with his reindeer. This turned out not only to be a big hit with the children in the crowd, but with the adults as well.

That November 24 in 1924, the 10,000 people along New York City’s streets cheered loudest at the grand finale of the parade at 12:00 pm when Santa Claus appeared. The event concluded with Santa coming down off of the float and sitting in a golden throne, which overlooked Macy’s newest entrance. Finally, Santa blew a trumpet, signaling the grand viewing of Macy’s holiday window display to be revealed. Thousands of people rushed to the magnificent window display and gazed upon the dozens of Mother Goose story themed puppets and miniature characters, marching around a toy castle.

Interesting to note is that Macy’s was not the first big department store to host a holiday parade, as Gimbel Brothers Department Store, located in Philadelphia, gets credit for the origination of that idea. In 1920, a small Thanksgiving procession took place in Philadelphia, which consisted of only 15 cars, 50 people, and a featured fireman, who was encouraging Christmas holiday shopping while dressed in a Santa Claus costume. Likewise, Detroit also saw interest in this tradition and planned their own, small parade in 1924. It was not until later in the year 1924 when Macy’s, the largest store (at the time), realized the creativeness of these few festive events in the country, and decided to add a few touches to it.

Today, this magical event continues to be a prominent highlight of the Thanksgiving holiday. Over the years, changes have been made to the annual event, such as the distance traveled during the parade, the omission of live animals, and the addition of the number of balloons included. Celebrity performances/dance routines have also become a staple of this event. However, the Santa Claus float continues to conclude the magical tradition today, wishing us a wonderful Thanksgiving while simultaneously chiming in the Christmas season.