Like most American households tomorrow morning, the Prices’ television will be tuned to the 87th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade has been a part of my Thanksgiving celebrations for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, my parents and I would be the beneficiaries of two (count ‘em, two) Thanksgiving meals each year, one with my father’s side of the family and another with my mother’s family. Thanksgiving, and the holiday season for that matter, would kick off for us by watching the beginning of the parade coverage at 9AM while we were all getting ready for the 10 minute car ride to my aunt and uncle’s house for Round 1–a beyond ridiculous Thanksgiving lunch spread of dressing (yes, we made it casserole style, not stuffed inside our fowl friend), cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, an indulgent yet always delicious HoneyBaked Ham and, of course, the star of any legitimate Thanksgiving meal, roasted turkey.
We would invariably arrive at their house every year at virtually the same part of the parade festivities, which just so happens to be my favorite part: the parade! The floats, bands, and the balloons (my favorite of the favorite). I never cared for the pre-parade Herald Square Broadway performances. I am all about the turkey float with the pilgrims, or the Mt. Rushmore float, or especially the larger-than-life balloons like Woody Woodpecker, Bullwinkle, Charlie Brown, and Mickey Mouse.
Then, just as those uniquely Thanksgiving aromas of perfectly roasted turkey and crispy yet moist dressing began to dominate the air inside my aunt and uncle’s quaint house, who would appear? There he was! The jolly old fellow himself, Santa Claus, making his way down the streets of Manhattan and on television sets across the country.
This has always been a bitter-sweet moment for me. A feeling of temporary depression hits me because St. Nick’s appearance marks the close of the parade. Boom! It’s over for another long, arduous year. Then, almost immediately the realization that the holiday season is just now upon us hits me. Whew! Now that I am emotionally balanced again I can focus on the task at hand: devouring the feast!
I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing the parade in person, but it’s still a tradition in my family. Many wonderful memories and not-so-wonderful memories have been created with that great American institution broadcasting in the background of our Thanksgiving celebrations. It is truly a tradition in the Price family.
As a result of it playing a significant part of my holiday memories, I have developed a seemingly unsatisfiable curiosity with the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For me, there’s no more interesting or fundamentally American aspect of the parade’s history than its origin. It’s particularly relevant now with the push for amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens residing here, or so-called comprehensive immigration reform.
On a November afternoon in 1924, a small group of employees of R.H. Macy and Company, most of them recent immigrants, marched from Harlem to Macy’s storefront at Herald’s Square. They dressed in various costumes and were accompanied by zoo animals and floats. The event was dubbed as the “Macy’s Christmas Parade”. The occasion? Why it was Thanksgiving, of course! The impetus? As parade historian Robert Grippo notes, the Macy’s employees were thankful for the “opportunities that America and New York City gave them. They decided to give thanks and celebrate their good fortune with a tradition rooted in the festivals of their homelands: parades.”
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade exemplifies the kinds of contributions immigration should make to our great country. We should be welcoming to those immigrants who genuinely and thoroughly value opportunity and freedom–to those who desire to be truly American. But we should be unwelcoming to those who only reside here only for the purposes of taking advantage of the opportunity America provides and remaking America’s culture in the image of their homeland, not assimilating.
Those early immigrant employees brought the best of their native cultures and adapted them to their uniquely American circumstances. As a result, a venerable and perennial American institution was born, creating memories and tradition for millions of Americans!
Enjoy the parade. Enjoy the football and food. Most importantly, enjoy the time with family and friends. Celebrate and be thankful that we live in the land of opportunity!