Every Thanksgiving, more than 53 million people around the country tune into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s no ordinary parade, but a national tradition that for many is just as important on Thanksgiving Day as serving a roast turkey or pumpkin pie.
This year, the Parade is celebrating its 85th anniversary. It started back on Thanksgiving Day in 1924 as a gathering of Macy’s employees, mostly immigrants or first-generation Americans, got together at the corner of 145th Street and Convent Avenue in Harlem. Dressed in costumes, and leading animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, the group of clowns, stilt-walkers, and Santa (of course) paraded through Manhattan for nearly six miles. Today, it’s turned into a grand spectacle with balloons, clowns, marching bands, and performances, that hundreds of Macy’s employees work on year-round.
Can’t make it to New York City to watch the balloons being inflated the night before, or sacrifice a good night’s sleep to witness the 3 a.m. dress rehearsals in front of TV cameras? Consider it a blessing in disguise.
Like many others, you can still tune into the parade on television, perhaps watching from the comfort of your couch, still in pajamas, enjoying the calm before the cooking storm. For Iron Chef Cat Cora, Thanksgiving is one of her favorite holidays because it’s one of the few days she and her wife’s cell phones are turned off. “We sit and watch the parade on TV with the kids over mugs of eggnog, then spend the day cooking together.” For others, the thrill of the parade is enough to distract the family, providing a hungry person the opportunity to slip in bites of butternut squash soup, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, all on the sly, like one TDM editor does.
For some kids, watching the parade is the ultimate indulgence (and for parents, a suitable babysitting tool). One TDM editor fondly remembers eating on the floor with siblings while her parents cooked away in the kitchen, something otherwise never allowed. And for those who are older, it’s the perfect excuse to begin celebrating early (especially if you’re the type that mourns the parade’s end because it means you’ve got to face the family). Just line up as many shots as there are floats.
Hosting guests overnight, or for the whole weekend? Take a cue from Emeril Lagasse and host a parade-viewing party for family or extended friends in town. Offer a casual spread of easy brunch dishes that can all be made in advance, like yogurt parfaits with granola, muffins, fruit salads, and a hearty breakfast casserole (and that will still leave room for the bird and stuffing). Or, if you’ve already got the kitchen ready for hosting Thanksgiving, opt for a potluck brunch get-together around the big-screen TV. Just don’t forget the sparkling brunch cocktails!
Have a Thanksgiving morning tradition of your own? Share yours here for a chance to win your own copy of The Macy’s Culinary Council’s new Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook, signed by Emeril Lagasse, before it goes on sale on October 11th! Then check back in November for a special, behind-the-scenes look at the parade over the years and interview with the parade’s Executive Producer, Amy Kule.