Macy’s Parade reflects the spirit and tradition of a nation

Megan Angelo

For all the efforts of the 6,000 people behind the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it ought to have a role in society — and it does. A close look at the lineup of this year’s parade, the 77th of its kind, reveals that the celebrated holiday spectacle says a lot about Americans today.

Our enthusiasm for traditions will come through loud and clear as Big Bird, Ronald McDonald, Kermit and, of course, Charlie Brown and the elusive football roll down 77th Street from Central Park.

Tom Turkey, who traditionally leads the parade, and Santa Claus, who always brings up the rear, excite the kid in Americans of all ages.

The new will march alongside the old this year, as Jeeves, the wise butler of cyberspace, makes his debut as a 39-foot high float — the first Internet character to ever grace the streets of New York. Further heroes of the technological era, Jimmy Neutron and Pikachu, will also be present, to the delight of bite-sized fans.

Uncle Sam adds a dose of patriotism to the event, as does Lady Liberty, who majestically headed the parade last year. Prouder-than-ever New Yorkers will cheer at the sight of the Big Apple Float, an inflatable version of the city skyline. And Harold the Fireman will return to the lineup to pay tribute to the nation’s most celebrated fire companies.

Diversity plays a subliminal role in the planning of the parade. This year marks the appearance of the first African-American balloon, Little Bill. Based on children’s books by Bill Cosby, Little Bill stars in his own animated series on Nickelodeon.

Women, however, are still underrepresented in the parade. Only five female characters have ever been included in the array of floats, the latest being this year’s Blue, beloved television puppy of preschoolers everywhere. Happy the Hippo is another among the small number of female stars, which explains why women are slightly dissatisfied with their parade ambassadors.

This year’s highlights are just the most recent developments in the legacy of the parade. It has developed with society since its inception in 1925. Back then, the Macy’s executives were immigrants who wanted to showcase their new life using a tradition from Europe — the parade. Macy’s employees, in costume, marched proudly among a modest number of floats and bands and 25 animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The first signature giant balloon, Felix the Cat, was presented in 1927.

The Depression didn’t stop the parade; however, desperate for holiday cheer, a record crowd of 1 million lined the streets in 1934. But World War II brought the famous line of balloons to a stop, as helium and rubber became precious commodities overnight.

The parade resumed in 1945 and became a household constant in the 1950s when it was broadcasted on national television for the first time. Thanksgiving Day 1963 posed the question of cancellation for the first time as the country mourned the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The parade did go on, however, and has only been called off once, in 1971 due to high winds.An ever-changing and always-enchanting holiday tradition, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gets bigger and brighter every year, mixes heritage and progress and, most importantly, brings a nation of families together.