Literally the Best Thing Ever: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

It’s an onslaught of corniness, giant balloons, lip-syncing pop stars, and high school marching bands. And it is WONDERFUL.

Photo: © Bettman/CORBIS

Somewhere toward the end of my teens, I lost the ability to sleep in, even when I tried. I’d wake up thinking that it was noon, only to discover it was actually 6:45 AM. Determined to stay in bed and be lazy, I started watching early-morning television. One year, staying at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, I again awoke at the crack of dawn, and, snuggled in my bed, started watching TV. As time ticked on, I noticed a delicious cinnamon smell wafting in from the kitchen. The lazy side of me wanted to stay in my warm, soft bed. But the industrious side said, “Get up, stupid, you’re missing the cinnamon buns!” And so off I went to the kitchen, dragging my blanket behind me.

My mother was in the middle of making herself a cup of French-vanilla coffee when she spotted her lazy middle child hovering over the giant tray of hot cinnamon buns on the kitchen table. “You’re up!” she said, “Good! We’re all downstairs getting ready to watch the parade.”

I’ll be honest: I used to hate the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I found it unbearably corny and couldn’t understand why everyone in my family was obsessed with watching it every year. Here are two things I have learned as I’ve gotten older: one, that it’s worth it to spend as much time as you can with your family; and two, that many seemingly unpleasant experiences improve drastically with the addition of giant cinnamon buns and French-vanilla coffee. And so, despite my longstanding eye-roll policy regarding the parade, I followed my mom downstairs, plopped myself on the couch with my big dumb blanket, and prepared myself for an onslaught of corniness, which is exactly what I got. But you know what? It was the BEST.

The parade itself hadn’t changed, of course. I’m not sure if it was age or just a cinnamon-vanilla-blanket happiness haze, but that particular Macy’s parade was the one that kicked off my now-undying love for the tradition. Now, every year, I look forward to breakfast pastries and several hours of ridiculousness as Matt Lauer and company introduce giant balloons, floats, marching bands, dance crews, and pop stars.

The trick to enjoying the Macy’s parade is to embrace the corniness and absurdity. The whole thing is amazingly bizarre, when you think about it: Matt Lauer will spend five minutes talking about an enormous floating Snoopy balloon, some Disney star will lip-sync in the most obvious way possible, an actor will flash an “I’m contractually obligated to be here” smile while waving from atop a float, some Broadway performers will belt out a few numbers, five bazillion high school marching bands will put on impressive shows, and everyone will flip out when Santa Claus comes to town, because Macy’s doesn’t mess around in the casting department, and their Santas are always on point. And then, periodically interrupting all of this are the first Christmas commercials, and if you can’t find the hilarity in the only time of year when people are shown on television losing their minds over green bean casserole, well, I don’t think I can help you.

As a bonus, the parade is immediately followed by the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, a several-hour spectacle of people in fancy suits running their perfectly groomed dogs around an AstroTurfed stadium. As far as holiday programming goes, this is a tough one-two punch to beat: first you get to see Kermit the Frog as a giant balloon, floating down the streets of New York City, and then you get to watch a dog beauty contest. And, perhaps best of all, you can enjoy all of this madness—the balloons, the bands, the floats, the silly host banter, the disgruntled actors, the lip-syncing pop stars, the beauty-pageant dogs—from the comfort of your couch, while surrounded by your loved ones, eating cinnamon buns and pumpkin pie. If that’s not something to be thankful for, I’m not sure what is. ♦


  • Abby November 23rd, 2011 11:36 PM

    AWWWW I LOVE the parade!!!! My family watches it together every year and eats popovers. And if you don’t know what those are, you’re TOTALLY MISSING OUT. Go google it and experience the DELICIOUSNESS.

  • NickyB November 24th, 2011 12:28 AM

    I giggled all the way through this article. Well-played!

  • Elena November 24th, 2011 2:00 AM

    This is LITERALLY the perfect post. The parade is so shamelessly entertaining, and you captured its ridiculous essence that brings everyone together. Thanksgiving rules.

  • Marguerite November 24th, 2011 5:45 AM

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING! i wish i could see the Macy’s day parade so bad, seeing it, is now my first priority on my dreams in life list. oh and also u make me wanna watch Best in Show – haha funniest movie ever!

  • soretudaaa November 24th, 2011 8:22 AM

    The lost ability of sleeping in is SO ME.

  • Nomi November 24th, 2011 10:29 AM

    I LOVE the macys parade. I look forward to it every thanksgiving. Ive been watching it since before I knew what corniness meant. My parents feel the same way you do, but I really enjoy it. :)

  • Octavia November 24th, 2011 11:05 AM

    Wish I could go, oh well! :)

  • Ruby B. November 24th, 2011 11:35 AM

    This is my first Thanksgiving in the USA since I was eight, so I’m super excited to experience it today!


  • Leilani November 24th, 2011 3:26 PM

    I watched the parade this morning on CBS and my favorite part (even though it wasn’t actually part of the parade) was seeing John Fogerty perform at the Hard Rock Cafe. Partly because I love “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and party because it was hilarious seeing my parents get all excited while singing and dancing along. Made my day!

  • Freja November 24th, 2011 7:26 PM

    Haha, my dad has to work in New York this week and was super excited to see the parade. I hadn’t heard of it before but this article makes me a bit jealous.

  • Whatsername November 24th, 2011 8:29 PM

    GAHH I MISSED THE PARADE THIS YEAR! AND THE DOG SHOW! It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without them :C

  • kem247 November 25th, 2011 4:14 AM

    I love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it’s like a tradition every Thanksgiving. But it’ kind of hard to watch it with relatives who are hard of hearing, and think every black singer performing is Chris Brown.

  • Madness December 10th, 2011 11:00 PM

    I realize that this is late and all but I thought I should share.

    I was actually in the Macy’s Parade last year. I played trumpet in the Macy’s Great American Marching Band. It was a very strange and surreal experience but I loved it. I actually was watching the parade the year before and I was like “I want to be in that band,” so I got in it.

    I do find the parade to be really corny so I felt kind of weird about being in it, but being in marching band has made me embrace the absurd. The parade itself was one of the coolest experiences of my life. It was just really crazy.

    I actually went back to New York this summer and I was like “oh, I’ve marched on this street before. I’ve marched through Time Square.” Very weird but very fun. I’ll never forget it.