A True Tradition- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macys LogoAlmost through the first month of our new format for 2014!  My fourth Thursday entry each month will focus on tradition and/or history somehow connected to Christmas.  For January we’ll have a tradition steeped in history or is it  a historic tradition?  Hmm…  Either way, I’m talking about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  In my family it is most definitely a tradition.  We have watched this parade together since my earliest memories, and definitely every year my sister has been alive.  But the parade has a huge history having just held it’s 87th march.

Macys 2Today the parade is a modern marvel full of dancers, bands, floats, singers, balloons, and technology everywhere.  Over 3.5 million people watch it in person on the streets of Manhattan and 50 million more tune in to watch on TV.  10,000 volunteers and scores of city workers insure the success of the parade in our modern times but it didn’t start that way.  Let’s talk history!  The original Macy’s parade began in 1924.  It is the second oldest Thanksgiving parade in the US.  (the oldest is the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade- originally the Gimbel’s Parade.  Yes, that Gimbel’s!)
The original Macy’s parade was based on and took over a parade  from Newark, NJ where it operated as the Bamberger’s Parade.  That first parade in ’24 was re-named the Macy’s Christmas Parade.  It began in Harlem and moved through Manhattan to end in Herald Square in front of Macy’s Department Store.  It included floats, bands, and animals from the zoo in Central Park.  The parade ended with the arrival of Santa Claus who was crowned as “King of the Kiddies” in front of the store.  Changes started right from the beginning and the parade had been modernized and improved continually for 90 years.  The iconic image with the parade has to be those giant balloons!

Macys 1Balloons were first added to the parade in 1927 with Felix the Cat.  He was filled with just air and carried through the streets by volunteers.  Helium was added to the balloons the next year (we can talk about some of the challenges of the helium balloons another time).  Also in 1928 began the release of the balloons.  They were let go at the end of the parade and each had a label.  If you found the balloon you could return it to Macy’s for a $100 prize!  That practice would end when the competition to “find” the balloons became too dangerous.  But the balloons are still one of the most popular parts of the parade.  Lots of different balloons have been part of the parade over time.  Some of the additions include Mickey Mouse in ’34, Donald Duck in ’35, Bullwinkle in ’61, Underdog in ’65, Cat in the Hat in ’94, and Buzz Lightyear in ’08.  Some balloons have made many different appearances in the parade.  “Harold” is a character who was in 4 different parades (1945-1948) as 4 different characters: a clown, a baseball player, a policeman, and a fireman.  Mickey Mouse, Spiderman, and Hello Kitty are some of the balloons appearing in different versions.  The winner is Snoopy.  Charlie Brown’s pet beagle has had seven different balloons in the parade- a record set in 2013.  A few interesting facts related to these balloons.  During World War II the balloons were given to the military to use- over 650 lbs of rubber!  Macy’s is the largest helium consumer after the US Government.  When a shortage occurred in 1958 the balloons were filled with air and moved through the streets on cranes.

Macys 3Aside from those incredible balloons, how did the parade grow into the global event it is today?  The parades of the 20s were watched by hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of New York.  It has been held every year since 1924 with the only break from 1942-1944 for World War II due to restrictions on fuel, rubber, and helium.  The awareness of the parade grew first from the radio broadcasts of the action.  Yes.  Radio! The parade was broadcast live on radio from 1932-1951.  The first television broadcast of the parade was an experiment in 1939.  Local tv broadcasts started in 1946 and national broadcasts followed in 1947. That year was the same year the parade got lots of attention from the movie Miracle on 34th Street.  The film used filmed scenes from the actual parade the year before.  NBC became the exclusive television broadcaster of the parade in 1952 with the name of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Color broadcasts became the norm in 1960.  NBC has been that exclusive broadcaster for the last 62 years, winning 12 Emmy awards since 1979.  Since the parade is in public other broadcasters can set-up shop and show the parade too.  CBS shows the parade too with the name The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS.  You can also catch it on local channels in the New York area and even streaming online.  The three-hour spectacle has become a focal point to officially begin the holiday season.  As we say in my family- “we can’t start our Christmas until Santa gets here”.

So make your plans now to include the parade as part of your holiday plans in 2014.  Tune in 9:00 AM, Thursday, November 27, 2014 on NBC.  Book a hotel and go in person maybe.  Until then find out more about the parade, play games, and shop at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade official website.  You have 308 days to wait for THE kick-off to the holiday season!

Downton Abbey – A Christmas Treat

ScotlandAccording to the Style section of the Washington Post, the first episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey drew 8 million viewers to PBS on Sunday night.  Roger and I were two of them for sure.  I can give you about a million reasons for my Downton Delirium, which, I think, must be as bad as a teenage girl’s Bieber Fever.

On the other side of the pond (and at the White House where Michelle Obama saw Season 3 this past fall–that’s one of the perks of being First Lady), they’ve already seen all of Season 3, culminating in a Christmas Day airing of Episode 7, where the Crawley’s go to Scotland. I am including this Telegraph Review, but don’t click the link if you don’t want your American viewing experience spoiled.

Meanwhile, we wait until February 17th for the final episode of Season 3, with five delicious Sundays in between.

Thinking about the Downton fans in your life?  Highclere Castle, where the series is filmed, boasts an online gift shop.  PBS has quite a few Downton gifts, too.

Want to try your hand at creating Downton Abbey at your house?  Check out this gingerbread video.  The windows are melted butterscotch candies–even if I won’t ever get to see the real Downton, I can try my own version in cookie form?

 

 

The Ed Sullivan Show and Christmas

Today in history, Ed Sullivan was born in 1901.  Interesting facts about Sullivan: he was born a twin, but his brother, Daniel, did not survive but a few months.

Sullivan was a journalist first and a performer on the radio.  Then, he began hosting a show, The Toast of the Town, in 1948.  In 1955, the show was renamed The Ed Sullivan Show.  In 1967, CBS renamed the Billy Rose Theater, from which Sullivan broadcast his show, the Ed Sullivan Theater. The show was cancelled in 1971, after 10,000 individual guest performances and 23 years.   Since 1993, David Letterman’s show has broadcast from the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Ed Sullivan is remembered for dominating the limited television offerings in the 1950’s and 60’s, establishing America’s taste.  The guests who appeared at Christmastime are many, including Bing Crosby and the Muppets. (The Muppets performed 25 times on his show.)  I’ve included YouTube videos of the Muppets performance  and Gayla Peevey’s  “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” in the early 1950’s. (The song was released in 1953.)

Ed Sullivan was known for supporting African American performers, and The Supremes were on his show 16 times.  They performed “My Favorite Things” in 1966.

Theres a DVD, “A Classic Christmas–The Ed Sullivan Show.” featuring many of Sullivan’s Christmas performers.  Here’s a link to the Amazon site to purchase.

Podcast #18- 237 Days to Go!

Podcast #18– Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer AND Gloria the Groundhog?

We start with a quick recap of the week’s highlights.  We move right into a discussion about picking the perfect name for our Christmas Groundhog.  What name will we pick?  Will our groundhog maybe be Russian? (Insiders know how I love Cheburashka) Our main focus is on Rudolph.  The little reindeer that was born as a Department Store promotional product has grown to be one of the most beloved Christmas icons- right up there with Santa himself.  Of course we discuss the 1964 television special from Rankin & Bass too.  This annual animated gift added so much more to the basic tale of Rudolph: best friend, love interest, danger, intrigue, travel, rescue, and more!  Enjoy and let us hear what other Christmas songs or traditions you want to hear more about.

Countdown Podcast #7- 321 Days to Go!

Snowflakes– Click to hear this week’s podcast.

With the recent “snow” fall on Sunday, snowflakes were back on our minds.  Listen in to today’s conversation on snow, snowflakes, Kirigami, Suzy Snowflake and of course Rosemary Clooney!  We also tease about upcoming blogs and next week’s discussion of couples at Christmas.  (here’s the link for that 1950s tv clip we mentioned- Suzy Snowflake)

Hallmark Cards: The Super Bowl commercials of the Christmas season

In the week before the Super Bowl XLVI, Roger and I watched a special about Super Bowl commercials and previewed some of them, including Anheuser Busch, Coca Cola, Smyth and more.  Roger was literally guffawing at the screen and was a wee bit miffed that I don’t have enough of a sense of humor to laugh, too.

At Christmas, I grew up with the Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas specials, which began in 1951 and continued through my childhood when there weren’t more than two or three channels to choose from.  The feel-good movies included now-famous the Hallmark card commercials.   As much as Roger laughed this week, I sobbed then through the saccharin card-giving moments.  In fact, they made me cry so much that I would turn them off rather than watch.

I checked out some of the most popular Hallmark commercials on YouTube and found myself crying again!  I’ve included a link to one of the best, the 1990’s commercial where the little brother waits for his big brother to come home.  I warn you: get out the tissues!

Let us know your favorites. We’ll post them here.

Countdown Podcast #6- 328 Days to Go!

Donkey Time– Click to hear this week’s Podcast.

This week Natalie & Jeremy planned to talk all about snowflakes.  Since it is unseasonably warm and it’s supposed to be over 60 the next two days, they weren’t in that mood at all.  So a last minute change was made and a new show created (much to their assistant Hildy’s dismay).  Today’s topics include more on Donkeys at Christmas- they show up in a number of songs.  Discussion also begins on Candlemas coming up on February 2nd.  Listen in to hear Nat’s review of Christmas Jars and their rough idea for a new holiday song classic.