New York City, NY, USA - November 22, 2018: Turkey float in NYC with pilgrim marchers and spectators near the start of The 92th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Traditions of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The origins and backstory behind the celebration of the parade

New York City, NY, USA – November 22, 2018: Turkey float in NYC with pilgrim marchers and spectators near the start of The 92th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been an ongoing yearly tradition in New York for the longest time. It hasn’t always been what it is today. The parades’ origins didn’t start on Thanksgiving Day, nor was it meant to actually be for Thanksgiving when it first originally happened. 

The very beginning of the story for the original purpose for the parade happened in Philadelphia back in 1920 for marketing. A store owner wanted to test out a new marketing technique to see if it would attract customers to its store. Surprisingly enough, it actually worked. The parade featured a variety of characters from popular nursery rhyme stories that would be considered nostalgic today if they aren’t continuing to be read to our children. In total, the parade took place along a 6 mile stretch for all of Philadelphia to see and enjoy.

Nearly 24 years later, Rowland Hussey Macy, the original founder of the world’s very first Macy’s department store adopted a similar idea for similar reasons, except he added a few changes and it lasted for much longer. He arranged for a parade to take place in hopes of drawing people in as a different way of marketing his brand new story, Macy’s, and it worked way better than what he could have ever imagined. He opened the original Macy’s in New York, thus bringing to life the traditional parade that happens every year in New York on the streets of Manhattan. 

Mr. Macy scheduled his advertising parade to be on Christmas Day in 1942. That means that the Macy’s Parade has been happening for about 97years in total now, if not a century already. There’s only ever been three separate yearly occasions for the parade to not happen and be canceled. Each time was due to events happening during World War 2 in the years 1942, 1943, and 1944.

During Mr. Macy’s parade, he had his employees dress up as various crazy characters such as different kinds of clowns and cowboys, created all sorts of floats, and added multiple balloons throughout the entire lineup to ensure that his parade would be noticed from afar. He even added an assortment of animals from the Central Zoo to assist in his attempts of being noticed.

For a total of 24 years, the parade was only ever talked about and broadcasted on the radio before ever being filmed and shown on television for all of the world to see and enjoy from the comfort of their own homes.

Rowland Macy’s advertising attempt surpassed his hopes of working because a total of 250,000 people ended up attending the event to watch the, now shortened down to just 3mile long parade take place. Today, more than 3.5 million people gather on the Manhattan streets of New York to enjoy the show every year.

Throughout time, the parade moved its original date of being on Christmas Day to then happening on Thanksgiving Day. Therefore, it became known as The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now that it’s more widely known and has basically become an annual Thanksgiving tradition, the name of the parade has been shortened down to just being The Macy’s Day Parade.

If you’ve ever thought about experiencing the parade in person, you may want to get there early and find a great place to stand. The seating areas are reserved and you’ll be standing for a total of about 3 hours. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes so your feet aren’t in blisters by the time it’s over. The parade starts at 9 am and lasts until noon, so you’ll have plenty of time to be with family for your Thanksgiving lunches and dinners.