Why Thanksgiving Traditions Include Parades and Football

The fourth Thursday of November is here and that means friends and family across the country will hopefully be headed somewhere to enjoy the Thanksgiving traditions of turkey and all the trimmings with some yummy pumpkin pie for dessert. Since the traditional meal tends to come later in the day, anyone that isn’t cooking or helping out will have plenty of time on their hands. Thank goodness there are plenty of sporting events and several holiday parades available to enjoy before the big meal is finally ready, but just how did the having parades and watching football become such Thanksgiving traditions? We were curious about this and found some interesting information we wanted to share on why these other two big Thanksgiving traditions came about.

More Reasons to Shop

The tradition of Thanksgiving parades goes back to the early 20th century when people began to associate Thanksgiving with the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. In order to attract more holiday shoppers, Macy’s decided to start sponsoring an elaborate parade in New York. Originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, the first Thanksgiving Day parade was staged in 1924. It had only three floats pulled by horses,  four bands and several animals from the Central Park Zoo — camels, donkeys, elephants and goats — as the attractions and stars in the parade. Last in the lineup was jolly old Santa Claus in his red sleigh full of wrapped presents, a tradition that continues to this day.

Employee Expansion

The parade took shape during the Roaring Twenties, a time of prosperity and pleasure. It was staged and further expanded by the hard-working Macy’s employees, many of whom emigrated to America from Europe and longed to stage a celebration similar to the ones in their countries. In 1927, the gigantic balloons that are now the signature element of the parade made their first appearance with the help of helium. The balloons replaced the zoo animals that were frightening to some children.At the conclusion of the parade, the giant balloons were released into the air. In 1929, Macy’s began offering a $50 reward for any returned balloons, which were affixed with return address labels. In 1934, celebrities became an important element of the parade, with singer-actor Eddie Cantor joining in the event that year. The Mickey Mouse helium balloon was also introduced to parade-goers.

3 Years Off

From 1942 to 1944, the parade was canceled because of the shortage of helium and rubber during World War II. Those three years are the only time the celebration has been called off. When the parade returned in 1945, it was broadcast on television for the first time and was bigger than earlier versions. Every year, the Macy’s team behind the parade works to outdo the previous year’s event. This evolution has meant bigger balloons, more floats, better materials and new technologies, all resulting in the flashy spectacle that rolls through the streets of New York today.

Games, Sports, & Pro Football

In an­cient harvest festivals, people often celebrated with various games and popular sports of the times, so you could argue the tradition of playing a game such as football on Thanksgiving has been popular for many, many years. Many folks believed that the tradition of an American football game on Thanksgiving started between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers but that is incorrect. In reality, the first game of professional football happened in 1934 when the University of Detroit Stadium hosted the first broadcasted Thanksgiving Day football game. Click the image below to watch a video from the History channel that explains the spark of this American holiday tradition. Of course, as football has become more popular, now there are more games and other sporting events as well on Thanksgiving day.

history of thanksgiving traditions - parades and pro football

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

We want to wish all of our new homeowners a very Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for choosing Hatteras Communities as the homebuilder, we are thankful for you. We look forward to helping our future homebuyers discover the Hatteras difference for themselves. From all of us to all of you, we hope you have a wonderful holiday with friends and family.


image sources: Flickr user aaron_c and History.com

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