The pageant is known for its floats, costumed revellers, brass bands, and enormous balloons of popular cartoons, all of which travel between the city’s skyscrapers on the fourth Thursday of November.
On 23 November 2023, there will be 25 balloons, 31 floats, 6 balloonicles, 11 marching bands, and 18 big-name celebrities featured in the parade, according to Macy’s official website. Some of the cartoon characters range from the beloved animated beagle, Snoopy, to Spongebob Squarepants and his pet snail, Gary. Similar to previous years, the parade will include a performance from The Radio City Rockettes and end with an appearance from Santa Claus himself.
The world’s largest pageant has taken place every year since 1924, when it was first introduced by the famous department chain, whose flagship store sits on 34th Street.
Here’s everything we know about the history of the parade, in addition to who will be a part of this year and how to watch it.
Macy’s parade, concluding with the welcoming of Old Saint Nick into Herald Square, quickly eclipsed the preceding Ragamuffin Day, which had seen children go from door-to-door dressed as beggars to collect sweets, a similar practice to Halloween trick-or-treating.
The advent of the Great Depression, which left many in a state of real destitution, saw Ragamuffin Day gradually phased out altogether on good taste grounds.
Balloons were first introduced to the Macy’s lineup at the suggestion of Anthony Frederick Sarg, a marionette performer tasked with designing the store’s seasonal window display.
He did so using giant balloon animals custom-built by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, which proved so popular with shoppers they were taken out on tour with the marchers in 1927, replacing the zoo animals.
The first character from popular culture to be featured is thought to have been Felix the Cat in 1931, with the all-American Mickey Mouse not taking a bow until 1934.
Following the US entry into the Second World War, the parade was suspended between 1942 and 1944 but was revived for the jubilant Thanksgiving of November 1945 and two years later played a prominent role in the film Miracle on 34th Street about a child’s encounter with the real Father Christmas working at the department store.
It has run smoothly ever since, barring the occasional burst balloon here and there, as when a gust of wind snagged one on a lamppost in Times Square in 2005 and injured two bystanders.
Global events have meant security concerns have been to the fore in recent years, with the NYPD out in force and police sharpshooters stationed on Manhattan rooftops to keep a watchful eye over proceedings that could provide a target for acts of terror.
New balloons joining the line-up for 2023’s edition include Beagle Scout Snoopy, Blue Cat & Chugs, Kung Fu Panda’s Po, and The Pillsbury Dough Boy.
The Rockettes will also be there, in addition to performances from other groups, such as The Big Apple Circus, Spirit of America, and The Tap Dancing Christmas Trees. Some of the celebrity performers include Alex Smith, Amanda Shaw, Ashley Park, Brandy, Cher, David Foster and wife Katharine McPhee, Jon Batiste, and Jessie James Decker.
The parade will start at 8.30am ET and end around noon on 23 November, Thanksgiving morning. The route runs as usual, south from West 77th Street & Central Park West on the Upper West Side to Macy’s Herald Square in the Garment District.
The big show will be officially broadcast on NBC, with Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, and Al Roker fronting a three-hour show. It will also be live-streamed on Peacock, with a re-recording of the event airing on NBC at 2pm on 23 November.