It’s been eight years since I’ve observed Thanksgiving, the US national holiday celebrating the Pilgrims’ arrival to the New World. Even when I lived here as a kid, my Irish parents were pretty skeptical about any holiday requiring Turkey that’s NOT Christmas – so the traditional celebrations were pretty few and far between. This year was different.
Following a restful night’s sleep at the Westin Hotel Time Square (the comfiest beds in the world FYI) we got up bright and early to head to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is a New York tradition spanning back to 1924, making it one of the oldest Thanksgiving parades in the country! Interestingly, the parade was started by Macy’s employees who were immigrants from Europe and longed to celebrate their new lives in America with the type of festival they would have had back home. They marched from Harlem through the city to the Macy’s flagship store on 34th street, dressed in costumes and leading live animals from the Central Park Zoo! Eventually the animals were replaced by giant animal shaped balloons and thus the parade’s famous cartoon balloons were born.
On Thanksgiving morning everyone watches the parade on TV (..unless you’re too hungover – the night before is one of the biggest party nights of the year!). It always reminds me of the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” where the big department store is looking to hire Santa for their parade and get the REAL Santa by accident.
Anyway, I digress! We were fortunate enough to have TICKETS to the parade this year. Before last week I didn’t even know they issued tickets. They’re usually just for Macy’s employees and relatives of the parade performers – but somehow we landed a few for the grandstand seats. Normally you’d have to queue up all morning to get a prime viewing spot.
Sitting along Central Park West freezing our behinds off, we couldn’t help but gaze longingly into the windows of the luxurious condos across the street. Each window was filled with families all ready to watch the annual parade from the comfort of their New York City home.
As first time parade go-ers were were perhaps slightly over-excited at times. For example, when the Sesame Street Float went by, myself and Lynsday couldn’t help but scream “BIG BIRD”! To us, he was Justin Bieber.
We laughed at the silly clowns, clapped along to the marching bands from all over the country and oohed and ahhed at the fantastic balloons idling down the street, controlled by teams of handlers. We loved Spiderman, Spongebob and Sonic the most. In my opinion, the best part of the parade is seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus come through – which signals the start of the Christmas season! It’s almost a crime to walk away without seeing that happen!
I had a quick chat with 4fm’s Gareth O’Callaghan live from the parade – have a listen:
The day was capped off with a Thanksgiving feast at my brother-in-law’s family’s house, where twenty of us chowed down on turkey, sweet potatoes, vegetables and an array of pies! sigh…what an excellent way to celebrate how thankful I am to be here.