The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was held on this day in history, Nov. 27, 1924, and took place on the streets of New York City.
A far cry from the hours-long parades of the modern era, the parade in 1924 was a much simpler affair — and was not even centered on the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Macy’s Christmas Parade,” as it was called, kicked off at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day in 1924.
The parade had none of the larger-than-life balloons it is known for today, but it did have animals from the nearby Central Park Zoo.
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The parade route was six miles long, starting in Harlem and going to Herald Square — the home of Macy’s Herald Square flagship store, as the History Channel’s website noted.
At the time, Macy’s had just finished an expansion of its Herald Square store. The parade was intended as both a celebration of the new expansion and a way to advertise for the upcoming Christmas season.
And while the parade route was six miles long, the parade itself was only two blocks, notes the History Channel.
Spectators could watch the parade in “just a matter of minutes,” the site pointed out.
The parade had floats that matched the nursery-rhyme theme of the Christmas windows on display at Macy’s that year, said History.com.
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These included “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”
Macy’s employees were in costume as clowns, cowboys and knights to further complement the nursery-rhyme theme.
The parade ended with a float featuring Santa Claus and his reindeer.
The tradition of Santa’s arrival at the end of the parade continues to this day.
The parade has been held every Thanksgiving — except for the years 1942-1944 during World War II.
Santa Claus has ended the parade each year, except for 1932 — when he led the parade, said Macy’s website.
The parade proved to be very popular. An estimated 10,000 people came out to watch the parade, and Macy’s vowed it would hold another one the following year.
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The parade has been held every single Thanksgiving, except for the years 1942-1944 during World War II.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has undergone many changes throughout the years.
While the first parade had live bears, elephants, camels and monkeys, the animals did not handle the long route and the screaming crowds very well — and did not make a return.
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They were replaced instead with the now-iconic balloons, which debuted in 1927, according to the website for Architectural Digest.
Although the parade route itself is now much shorter — only about 2.5 miles — the number of people and floats in the parade has grown considerably since 1924.
In 2023, the parade featured “5,000 volunteers, 16 featured character balloons, 26 fantastic floats, 32 heritage and novelty balloons, more than 700 clowns, 12 marching bands and nine performance groups,” said Macy’s website.
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This year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started at 8:30 a.m., half an hour earlier than it ever had before.
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