U.S. #3546 – In the early years of the parade, the floats were pulled by horses.

First Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

On November 27, 1924, New York City hosted its first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

In the 1920s, many of Macy’s Department Store employees were first-generation immigrants. They wanted to give thanks for their new life in America with a traditional celebration from their European homeland – a parade.

They held the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on November 27, 1924. The pageant featured store employees dressed as clowns and cowboys, with bands and live animals. The procession ended, as it has ever since, with a float carrying Santa Claus into Herald Square, signaling the transition to the Christmas season. Over a quarter of a million smiling faces watched the parade its first year. It was hailed a success and declared an annual event.

In 1927, promoters promised that the Thanksgiving Day Parade would be “bigger and better than ever,” and it was. For the first time, giant balloons traveled along the streets of New York City.

Balloons were introduced to replace the live zoo animals that frightened some of the children. The crowds of that era had never seen anything like the new balloons. New Yorkers were awed as giant dinosaurs, elephants, and tigers “peered” through fifth-story apartment windows.

In 1929, the balloons were released with the promise of a $50 reward for anyone who found them. The release program ended three years later when a man attempted to use a plane to retrieve a giant cat balloon. The balloon tangled around the wing and the plane almost crashed into Broadway.

U.S. #4417-20 – When the parade was postponed during WWII, more than 650 pounds of scrap balloon rubber went toward making vital tires and life rafts for the war effort.

The number of spectators increased each year and grew to one million by the Depression years. The parade was postponed during World War II to save materials vital to the war effort. In 1945, the soldiers came home and people lined the streets again to see the first postwar parade. The war took its toll on American soldiers, so college and high school bands marched instead, allowing the soldiers to rest. These new bands replaced traditional marches with songs inspired by all forms of popular music.

The audience became national in 1948 when the parade was broadcast from coast to coast, so the entire country could watch the festivities. The Thanksgiving Day Parade has become an American tradition. Today, 3 million people line the streets of Manhattan and another 44 million watch the pageantry on television.

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  1. What a fantastic tradition! People of all religions look forward to this parade every year, even though it ends up with Santa Claus ushering in the religious Christmas season.

  2. The day after thanksgiving did mark the beginning of the Christmas Season. Even when
    my son was young the Friday after was the first day Santa would show at the malls. Now
    he shows up in the beginning of November and Christmas decorations and stuff come
    out the day after Halloween. wish it would go back to the way it was in the 80’s and before.

  3. It’s so nice to read this traditional commentary. I’ve watched the Macy’s Day Parade for many many years. It’s what’s always been on TV Thanksgiving morning as relatives are gathering and food is being prepared.

  4. Love these daily post….
    As a native Long Islander, I watched the Thanksgaaving day parade on the streets of NYC 1982 returning home from A tour of duty from Germany. So many people had asked me about the parade,I had to tell them sorry but I had not seen the parade other then on TV or the Statue of liberty. I spent most of my two leave visiting NYC. and the Statue of Liberty. Later that year I was transfered to a Army field hospital in the Bronx (74th Field Hospital) as the unit motor sgt.

  5. Sorry to refute your information about Macy’s and NYC.s first Thanksgiving Day Parade, BUT Gimbel Brothers Department Store in Philadelphia Pa beat-out Macy’s by several years

  6. Yes, Gimbel’s was first, but that’s not what it says.If you read the article, it says it “was MACY’S first Thanksgiving parade”, not THE first.

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