NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade has become a corporate commercial

By Lucy Komisar
Nov 24, 2023

This is my favorite float of New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a charming snowflake train trailed by clowns. I like it not just because of the elegance, but because it is not selling something. Not a kids cartoon show or movie. Not fast food or bad food.

I have enjoyed the parades before, because in spite of the commercialization, there were always some clever or important floats. Last year one that promoted STEM education. The usually present Mount Rushmore presidents. But this year, I saw 90 minutes of the two-hour parade and except for some clowns, stilt walkers and bands, I wanted to tune it all out. The worst was that as the big balloons and floats passed by, the cord holders and performers shouted out the names of the products, and the kids in the crowds watching shouted back! The parade was one long commercial.

This is what I wrote last year.

New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was started in 1924 by immigrant workers at Macy’s Department Store. It’s coming on their one hundred year anniversary!

They had escaped repressive conditions in Russia and elsewhere and had a workers’ sense of solidarity and appreciation.

They wanted to celebrate this American holiday with a European-style festival of the sort their parents had enjoyed. They created the parade. But their story has been erased from it.

So how about next year running some floats about these immigrants, how they lived their first years in America and what they meant to the country. And a huge event in 2024. Unions and self-described progressives should promote this.

That should take us back to STEM, about building a better society by empowering its people.

Because Thanksgiving should not be only about buying things. (Spoiler’s alert, not even getting into the myth of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, it really is about buying things!)

Nothing changed. It got worse. So here’s what I liked, a few clever moments, the clowns and stilt walkers and fine school and college bands.

Some South Asian dancers and a very quizzical clown. The always clever yellow clown cabs.

The inflated rat king from “The Nutcracker.”

Sesame Street was okay, it’s a non-profit. And it teaches kids some things other than buy buy buy.

The wonderful stilt walkers.

Lots of bands. This one in Mexican style outfits is from Texas.

And I like the guy holding the pom pom dancer with one hand! And some in time banner wavers!

Because everything else was balloon and float commercials, watch this cartoon or film, buy this fast food or cookie. Thanksgiving is now a corporate event.

Later I discovered an NBC video of an earlier Native American float.

NBC says it tells the story of “resilience, traditions, and an enduring vibrant culture.” Connect that to the red star behind Santa that says “believe.” Believe in American mythology. Believe that the Pilgrims invited indigenous people to a feast, but the story ignores that they then murdered them and stole their lands.

All the reality you should consider before you take your kid to the crush behind the street barriers to see this pageant.

All photos © Lucy Komisar.

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