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We have Bamberger’s Department Store owner, Louis Bamberger, to thank for the spectacular tradition that is the American Thanksgiving Day parade.

When his store was purchased by Macy’s in 1924 and the parade moved to New York City from its original home in Newark, New Jersey, Bamberger did not expect it to be a roaring success. However, more than 250,000 spectators showed up, making it an obvious choice to hold the event again the following year.

This and other Thanksgiving Day parades have changed significantly over the years, but what hasn’t changed is their tradition for ringing in the holiday season, and the millions of families who attend or tune in each year. Many of the balloons and floats are recurring, and their journey down the parade routes are a surefire sign that the holiday season has arrived. Snoopy, for instance, has appeared in the Macy’s parade thirty-nine times in the last fifty years. Traditionally, they have also been a showcase for talent, both local and national, with high-school marching bands and dance troops, as well as stars from popular television shows and films, making appearances.

From giant floating characters to the arrival of Santa Claus, American Thanksgiving Day parades are a longstanding ceremony that helps kick off the holiday season with a bang. Though it may be hard to remember a time before this turkey day tradition, it was many years before the parades amassed to the size and grandeur of these famous processions.

Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade

Plymouth, MA
America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade

As the unofficial site of America’s first Thanksgiving, Plymouth’s parade delves into the nation’s history with a timeline of holiday celebrations through the ages—from the 1600s to modern-day.

Chicago, IL
McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

What started as a way to raise spirits during the Great Depression, Chicago’s parade has been held since 1934. In 2008, the parade was officially added to the lineup of nationally broadcasted Thanksgiving Day parades, and it has featured acts like the Harlem Globetrotters and Rockettes.

Detroit Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade

Detroit, MI
America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the second oldest in the nation, having begun in 1924. Aside from traditional floats and balloons, the parade’s original director, Charles Wedel, was gifted large character heads made from papier-mâché on a European vacation, which have been used in the procession ever since.

Houston Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade

Houston, TX
H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade

Houston takes great pride in its Thanksgiving Day parade, which has been a staple for nearly seventy years. It has grown in size and scale, but has remained very much a community event—highlighting local organizations, businesses, and talent—including the 2016 parade’s grand marshal, Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles, who grew up just outside of Houston.