Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in November of 1924. It’s 96 years old (although it was cancelled for a few years for WWII), which means it’s approaching its centennial! If you live in the United States, there’s a good chance you’ve caught at least a few minutes of the parade once or twice.
The parade is one of my favorite traditions, and one of the earliest Thanksgiving memories I have. From a young age, I loved running back and forth from the kitchen (to “help” my mom cook) to the living room, where the festivities played on all morning. Once I was firmly into my Disney Channel years, I was all set to watch Hilary Duff perform “So Yesterday” in 2003. I was still Disney-obsessed when Miley Cyrus put on her Hannah Montana wig to sing “The Best of Both Worlds” in 2006.
I looked up clips of these two performances and inwardly smiled at the styles of the day. Hilary wore a black beret with matching black gloves and pants, topped with a pink sweater dress and finished off with pink heels. Miley/Hannah had a matching white gloves/hat combo with a tan fuzzy jacket and the requisite skinny jeans and boots.
You’re probably not here for 2000s middle school fashion, so here are some other things I’ve noticed. No matter what character or popular singer was on the lineup, I was still excited about the parade every year (although I loved it when my favorites showed up). I’ve always been somewhat interested in the history of the event. I vaguely remember reading an article over a decade ago when the parade had its 80something-th anniversary!
There’s an air about the parade that feels invincible. Even in a year of illness and disarray, Macy’s is still putting on the show (with safety precautions and no live audience). I don’t ever think about all the work it takes to make the tradition happen–including thirty artists who work all year, over 50,000 hours of labor, over 4,200 costumes made, and 300 pounds of glitter sprinkled. Did you know that the Macy’s star alone requires eight handlers? The signature trademark was introduced in 1986 and is 25 feet high, 27 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. In addition to interesting facts like these, Macy’s has curated a simple but fun history exhibit on their website. I love this quote on their 90s page: “But what are the 90s if not a pop culture paradise?”
Indeed, a pop culture paradise. In 1994 (the year I was born), the Lawrence Brothers were in attendance, Barney the dinosaur and Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat were “the two newest mammoth balloons,” and remember the Beethoven movies? The dog named after the composer was introduced to the parade in ’93.
Another big parade-related thing happened in 1994. The remake of Miracle on 34th Street came out. I posted a picture of the film’s parade on Instagram. The movie features a fictional department store called Cole’s (which still sounds like Kohl’s), but everything else looks a lot like the real parade people in America watch year after year. Mara Wilson’s character, Susan, is lucky enough to watch the parade from her window, but she’s still relatable just for watching. There’s something idyllic about kicking off the holiday season with the smell of your favorite foods cooking as the latest teen pop star belts it out on TV.
The 2020 parade boasts of Dolly Parton, Pentatonix, Patti LaBelle, Jordin Sparks, Keke Palmer, and many others. Want to feel really old? Miley’s little sister, Noah Cyrus, is also set to perform this year. It’s interesting to note that of those other big names, Dolly and Patti LaBelle have been singing longer than I’ve been alive. Jordin Sparks, Keke Palmer, and Pentatonix, on the other hand, became popular when I was in middle school and high school. My point is, some pieces of the parade are fleeting trends, but others remain popular over time and manage to stir up some nostalgia for viewers, even in real time.
The Broadway performances, the Rockettes, the marching bands, they all combine to create a unique spectacle that somehow smells like turkey and stuffing. Throw in the Charlie Brown special and either rendition of Miracle on 34th Street, and you’ve got yourself a cornucopia of Thanksgiving day entertainment.
I’m grateful for many things during these times, and if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I’m grateful for YOU. Whatever your Thanksgiving looks like this year, I hope you know how valuable and loved you are. If you ever want to talk about random things like this parade, or other stuff, send me a note on my “About Me” page or reach out on Instagram! Happy Thanksgiving from my turkey TV to yours.