How the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Ballooned Into a Cherished Holiday Tradition

The 93-year-old 'retinue of clowns and freaks' grew into an event that rivals the Super Bowl

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On Friday, Nov. 28, 1924, The New York Times carried an item on page 15 about Santa Claus making an early seasonal appearance: “With a retinue of clowns, freaks, animals and floats, the bewhiskered man in red … arrived at 9 o’clock yesterday morning.” The story, measuring just a few column inches, was a throwaway. Only in retrospect is it clear what a seminal event was in the offing: The modest procession floating down Broadway on that chilly Thursday morning was the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The publicity folks at Macy’s tell us that the parade is “the nation’s most cherished holiday tradition”—which, if that’s an exaggeration, isn’t much of one.



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This story first appeared in the Nov. 18, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.