Eighty-five years ago today, which happened to be a Thursday and therefore Thanksgiving, Macy’s held its first parade. As the ad on the right indicates, it wasn’t called the “Thanksgiving Day Parade”; it was, instead, the “Big Christmas Parade, Welcoming Santa Claus to New York!” The parade route started at Convent Avenue and 145th Street, proceeded down 110th Street to Eighth Avenue, where it turned downtown, finally reaching Macy’s front door at Broadway and 34th Street.
According to the official Macy’s site, the parade was conceived by Macy’s employees, many of whom were European immigrants, [as] a celebration of the Christmas season rooted in the traditional festivals of their homelands.” Instead of the gigantic balloons for which the parade is now famous, there were live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, as well as floats, marching bands, and professional entertainers. According to the Manhattan User’s Guide, “The giraffe had to stay home because it wouldn’t fit under the elevated tracks.”
The next day the New York Times reported that “beautiful floats showed the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Miss Muffet and Red Riding Hood. There also were bears. elephants, donkeys and bands, making the procession resemble a circus parade.” Santa brought up the rear, as he has every year since: “Santa came in state. The float upon which he rode was In the form of a sled driven