7 things you may not know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade

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7 Things You May Not Know About the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade



The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is not just one of the most spectacular events in New York, but it's the most famous parade in the U.S.

In honor of this year's 89th annual parade, here are a few things you may not know about it:

1. Giving Thanks for... Christmas?
The first Macy's parade was not about Thanksgiving. It was actually a Christmas Parade, organized by the department store's employees in 1924. That same year, the Macy's store in Manhattan's Herald Square also expanded to become the "World's Largest Store."

2. Embracing the Animal Kingdom
Because it wasn't all about Turkey Day, the parade was also not all about turkeys. With 10,000 onlookers, the parade featured all kinds of animals from the Central Park Zoo. There were even elephants and bears, oh my!

3. Getting A Big Head
These days, the enormous novelty balloons of cartoons and other pop culture characters are a hallmark of the parade. But they were first introduced in 1927, and the first character balloon to hit the streets was Felix the Cat. Righty-o!

4. Life of the Party
While many celebs have made appearances at the parade and even hosted the event, actress Betty White is the unofficial Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade queen. She hosted the parade from 1962 to 1971.

5. Glued to the Screen
The parade was first televised locally in 1946 and nationally in 1947. Every year, over 3.5 million people crowd the streets of Manhattan to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, while a whopping 50 million television viewers tune in from home.

So whether you're hitting the streets of New York this November or watching the parade from home, now you know a little bit more about the time-honored event we call the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

See photos of the parade through the years:

71 PHOTOS
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Through the Years
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7 things you may not know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 01: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade- First Parade, 1926 (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
1929 - A large outdoor float of Captain Nemo makes its way down the street during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, on Nov. 28, 1929. Originally known as the Macy's Christmas Parade, the Thanksgiving Day parade started in 1924. (AP Photo/File)
Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade passes down Broadway in New York, Nov. 27, 1930. Many comical and grotesque designs and floats are to be seen in this parade. (AP Photo)
An outdoor float of a big cat makes its way down a street during the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Nov. 26, 1931. (AP Photo)
A not-too-ferocious dragon caught fancy of crowd at 1931 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
With a dopey clown and the kind of hippo you see only in a hangover, Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade trundles down Central Park West. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Oink Oink! This gigantic grunting porter doesn't look as though he need to be afraid of any bad wolf, no matter how big. He was one of the features of Macy's parade down Broadway. His 'oinks' were heard far and wide. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade makes its way down Broadway in New York City on Nov. 30, 1933. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade marched through New York City for an 87th time on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/File)
This is a scene from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade along Broadway in New York City on Nov. 30, 1933. (AP Photo)
This is a photo of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Broadway in New York City on Nov. 30, 1933. (AP Photo)
A helium inflated Superman rises over the Times Square crowd to lead the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1940. (AP Photo/ho)
This was the scene at Times Square in New York during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, Nov. 23, 1945. It's the first parade since the festivities were suspended with the war in 1941. Here, the Teddy Bear passes a reproduction of the Statue of Liberty. (AP Photo)
A rooftop view of the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
A giant baseball player float moves down 7th Avenue during the Macy' Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 28, 1946. (AP Photo/John Rooney)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 22: One of characters Mighty Mouse in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade mugs for the crowd as he hogs the spotlight in Times Square. An estimated 400,000 watches the show. (Photo by Nick Petersen/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 22: Big bird Turkey 'Gorgeous Gobbler,' one of the balloon stars in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was moving along well. A million fans lined Our Town's streets to watch the fun. (Photo by Hal Mathewson/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A huge balloon in the form of comic fireman floats over Broadway during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 25, 1948. Thousands jammed the streets to watch .(AP Photo/John Rooney)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 24: A clown whose 'head' is in danger of blowing away becomes big favorite with kiddies jamming street along Central Park West at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. (Photo by George Torrie/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A giant turkey float squeezes between buildings as the 31st annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade moves down Broadway near 37th Street in New York, Nov. 28, 1957.(AP Photo/John Lindsay)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 27: Nicole Grauer's 50-yard-line seat for Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is on third floor of 1 Times Square. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Some of the Radio City Music Hall'€™s Rockettes as they were performing in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York on Nov. 27, 1958. Some of the police-estimated 1,250,000 that watched the parade keep an eye on the dancers as they approach 34th Street and Broadway, near the end of the march. (AP Photo/John Lindsay)
1959 - A helium-filled Popeye balloon participates in the 33rd Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square, New York, on Nov. 26, 1959. An estimated 1.3 million people watched the parade in 1959. (AP Photo/File)
Cross-eyed? Well, if you were as full of helium as Bullwinkle is... you would be also in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. (Photo by Mel Finkelstein/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
High-kicking young ladies during the Macy's Day Parade at Thanksgiving in New York City, 26th November 1961. A number of tableaux behind commemorate landmarks in the city's history. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Comedian Jimmy Durante rides on a Jumbo the elephant float during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Nov. 22, 1962. (AP Photo)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 26: Clowns light up the faces of children watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on Central Park West. (Photo by Paul DeMaria/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: The Rockettes perform during the 1966 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: (l-r) Hosts Betty White and Lorne Greene during the 1968 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
The redesigned balloon of Olive Oyl, holding Swee' Pea, floats behind a group of clowns as they march down Broadway in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1986. (AP Photo)
The new Humpty Dumpty balloon, followed by a redesigned Olive Oyl holding Swee' Pea, floats down Broadway in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1986. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
The Pink Panther, a new addition to the cast of balloon characters in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, floats above Broadway in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 24, 1988. (AP Photo/Chuck Wenzelberg)
Ronald McDonald cruises over spectators on Broadway during the 63rd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 24, 1989. An estimated 1.8 million people attended the parade in the cold weather. (AP Photo/Tim Clary)
Garfield the Cat, with Snuggle the Bear behind, floats down Broadway in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 23, 1989. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
Woody Woodpecker makes his way down Broadway in the 64th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 23, 1989. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
Bart Simpson makes his debut on his skateboard in the 64th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade down Broadway in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 22, 1990. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Kermit the Frog floats down Broadway in the 64th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 22, 1990. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
Spectators brave the elements as floats and balloons make their way through New York's Times Square during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade along Broadway, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1992. A 66-foot long tail trails behind the Pink Panther balloon. (AP Photo/Richard Harbus)
Goofy, the Disney cartoon character, makes his debut in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade down Broadway in New York City, Thursday, Nov. 26, 1992. Goofy is followed by Humpty Dumpty, Bugs Bunny and the Pink Panther. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
The familiar face of the Snoopy balloon hovers 50 feet over Broadway during Macy's 69th annual Thanksgiving Day parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 23, 1995. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Dudley the Dragon, the newest airborne addition to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, takes his maiden flight in New York, Sunday afternoon, Nov. 5, 1995. The 123rd helium balloon created for the parade is 65-feet tall, 28-feet wide and 45-feet long. (AP Photo/Mark Lenihan)
The Spider-Man balloon floats above Broadway during Macy's 69th annual Thanksgiving Day parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 23, 1995. The parade's official Super Hero Balloon is 78 feet long, 36 feet wide and holds 8,300 cubic feet of helium. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Rocky and Bullwinkle soared over Broadway for the first time in years as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrated its 70th birthday in New York, Thursday, Nov. 28, 1996. Seventeen floats and 18 giant helium balloons soared against the sky as they glided down the street in front of hundreds of thousands of onlookers. Temperatures were in the mid-20s. (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)
The Rugrats balloon floats through New York's Times Square during the Macy's 71st Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1997. Winds of up to 40 mph kept the volunteer balloon handlers busy. At least one million spectators were expected to line the 2-mile parade route, city officials said. (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)
Handlers struggle to keep the beak of a Big Bird balloon from touching the ground from high winds during Macy's 71st annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1997. Wind gusts of 40 mph were reported in the area as the parade, famous for its huge helium balloons of cartoon characters, got under way. (AP Photo/Emile Wamsteker)
Onlookers get a close-up view from their high-rise perch of the "Garfield" balloon during the 73rd annual Macy's Thnaksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday Nov. 25, 1999. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE -- Pictured: An overhead view of the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
A marching band followed by Arthur balloon during the 2000 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Mickey Mouse waves to parade spectators along the route of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 23, 2000. (AP Photo/Robert Mecea)
The Pearl City High School marching band from Hawaii performs at the end of the parade route of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2001. (AP Photo/Ed Bailey)
Jeeves, the Internet butler, is followed by the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee as the 75th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade makes its way down Broadway Thursday, Nov. 22, 2001, in New York. (AP Photo/Beth Keiser)
2002 - Little Bill, based on Bill Cosby's "Little Bill" book series, makes his debut on Broadway in the 76th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2002. The 2002 parade featured 1,000 cheerleaders, 500 clowns, 25 floats, 12 marching bands, 10 novelty balloons, four toy floats and three balloon-floats. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett, File)
2003 - Kaycie Gamblin, 6, left, and Brandon Gamblin, 11, of Hicksville, N.Y., watch as the Ronald McDonald balloon floats down Broadway in Times Square, during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday Nov. 27, 2003, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Clifford the Big Red Dog balloon floats its way down New York's Broadway during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Thursday Nov. 27, 2003, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Big Bird, Garfield and Clifford balloons make their way down Broadway through Times Square during the 78th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday, Nov. 25, 2004 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
SpongeBob Squarepants makes his way along the parade route during the Macy's Parade in New York Thursday, Nov. 25, 2004. The Thanksgiving Day parade, featuring 59 balloons and 27 floats, stepped off just after 9 a.m. and began its procession toward Herald Square in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
The Scooby Doo balloon hangs over Central Park West as it is pulled through the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday, Nov. 24, 2005 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
The Ronald McDonald balloon, left, and the Pikachu balloon, right, float down Broadway during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Thursday Nov. 24, 2005 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
The Mr. Potato Head balloon passes through Times Square during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Thursday, Nov. 24, 2005 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
The Scooby Doo balloon floats down Broadway in the rain during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)
Michael Villanueva, 4, below center, joins his brother Justin, 4, right, and Kacy Talbot, 5, of Thibodaux, La. left, in watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Members of the Oklahoma University marching band play as they march along Broadway during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007, in New York.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
The Abby Cadabby balloon makes its way down Broadway in celebration of the 82nd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008, in New York. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano)
A group of cheerleaders march through Times Square during Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)
The Hawaii All State Marching Band passes through Columbus Circle as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade heads downtown, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011, in New York. A jetpack-wearing monkey and a freakish creation from filmmaker Tim Burton are two of the big new balloons that will make their inaugural appearances in front of millions of people at this year's parade. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The Buzz Lightyear balloon floats through Times Square in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
Cheerleaders march through Times Square in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. A jetpack-wearing monkey and a freakish creation from filmmaker Tim Burton are two of the big new balloons that will make their inaugural appearances in front of millions of people at this year's parade. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
The Spider-Man balloon floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
People look out of a window of a building as the "Elf-in-a-Shelf "balloon flies by during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York. After fears the balloons could be grounded if sustained winds exceeded 23 mph, Snoopy, Spider-Man and the rest of the iconic balloons received the all-clear from the New York Police Department to fly between Manhattan skyscrapers on Thursday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
2013 - A police officer stands on Sixth Avenue as a giant fireman balloon passes during the 87th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A giant Uncle Sam balloon is marched down 6th Avenue during the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, in New York. After fears the balloons could be grounded if sustained winds exceeded 23 mph, Snoopy, Spider-Man and the rest of the iconic balloons received the all-clear from the New York Police Department to fly between Manhattan skyscrapers on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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