Wednesday, November 17, 2010


   The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner and major cities throughout the country are finalizing parade preparations for the big day.  Thanksgiving parades are as much a holiday tradition as turkey, football and pumpkin pie.  Get ready to enjoy giant character balloons, marching bands and dance troops making their way through the city streets while Santa follows behind, ushering in a festive start to the Christmas season.  Thanksgiving parades are a fun and family-friendly way to celebrate one of the nation's oldest traditions.


New York, New York:

   The grandest of all Thanksgiving parades, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in New York City is the country's largest and most recognized Thanksgiving parade.  Now in the 82nd year, the parade attracts more than three million spectators and upwards of 44 million television viewers.  If you're planning to be in the New York area over Thanksgiving, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade begins at 9am at 77th Street and Central Park West and continues for 2 1/2 miles through New York City's Upper West Side before coming to an end at 34th Street and 7th Avenue.  Don't miss it!!


Chicago, Illinois:

   The McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago is best known for its giant inflatable character balloons.  Expect to see such favorites as Garfield, Curious George and Underdog.  Beginning at 8am on Thanksgiving Day, the parade marches down State Street from Congress to Randolph.  The McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade is one of three in the country with a national broadcast, so even if you can't make it to Chicago you can still catch the live broadcast on television.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

   Dating back to 1910, the 6abc Ikea Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia is the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country.  Beginning at 8:30am, the parade runs along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City.  One of the best places to watch the parade is at its finish at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Other good viewing points include the south side of Eakins Oval (also in front of the Art Museum) and Logan Circle along the Parkway.

Detroit, Michigan: 

   America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit began back in 1924 and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.  The parade is famous for its ever expanding collection of giant papier mache heads.  Known as the Big Heads, they resemble walking bobble heads in costumes.  The parade route begins at Woodward Avenue and Mack and continues through downtown Detroit.  America's Thanksgiving parade kicks off after a pre-parade road race which includes a 1 mile and Mashed Potato Mile, 5k Stuffing Strut and 10k Turkey Trot.  Open to the public, it's a great way to get in a bit of exercise before sitting down for your Thanksgiving feast.


Houston, Texas:

   Houston's Thanksgiving Day Parade, also known as the H-E-B Holiday Parade is a 61 year holiday tradition that takes place in the city of Houston.  The parade attracts 400.000 spectators and is watched by nearly 2 million local television viewers throughout the state of Texas.  The parade begins at 9am and makes its way through downtown Houston heading west on Texas to Fannin, turning south on Dallas and continuing east for  four blocks before turning north on La Branch and ending at McKinney.  The live television broadcast is syndicated in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and several other major cities throughout the region.


   As the Christmas season is fast approaching, I thought it might be interesting to delve into the history of the holidays.  It turns out that there are many myths, false tales, and little known facts about the Christmas holiday and I thought I would share some of these. 

  • The tradition of Santa being pulled by reindeer began in the 19th century when a group of people moved from  Norway to Alaska with a heard of reindeer, who were later used to pull sleds with Santa on them for an advertising campaign.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer was invented in 1939 by a man working for a department store, previous to this there had only been 8 reindeer.
  • In North American tradition, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole.  However, in Denmark folklore he lives on Greenland, and each country on the Scandinavian peninsula has an area in which he is told to reside.
  • The X in the abbreviation X-mas is derived from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter of Christ's name in the Greek alphabet, rather than an attempt to remove the religious aspect of the holiday as some believe.

  • Although the birth of Jesus is celebrated on Christmas, it is cloudy as to whether he was actually born on December the 25th or not.  This date was chosen to give Christian meaning to existing pagan rituals.
  • In Roman times, December 25th  was celebrated as the rebirth of the sun and was called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.
  • The Christmas tree comes from a pagan tradition involving the Winter solstice, and the word "Yule" also come from pagan sources.  As Northern Europe was one of the last areas to be Christianized, many of it's traditions had to be accepted into Christian traditions rather than obliterated.
  • Santa Claus was not always depicted as fat, jolly and bearded.  Throughout time his image has changed, from skinny and beardless to what he is today.  As a Christmas figure he is a mixture of Saint Nicholas and Christkindlein.

  • In recent years NORAD, the joint North American Aerospace Defense Command between the United State and Canada, has begun tracking Santa and his reindeer on their website via radar as he makes his rounds n Christmas.  This can be viewed at http://www.noradsanta.org/.
  • There was a time in the 17th century when Christmas was actually banned for being too flamboyant by several groups in England and America , such as the Puritans.
  • On December 24, 1914, on the trenches of the Western front of World War I, the troops of the British, French and German empires came to an unofficial, sporadic truce in places.  Carols were sung, gifts were exchanged and soccer matches were even started between the two sides.  This proves that even in the middle of one of the deadliest, dirtiest, and faceless wars that the world has ever seen, some of the most hellish circumstances imaginable, Christmas can still bring peace on earth and goodwill towards men.