Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Image result for macy's thanksgiving day parade 2016

   Who hasn't grown up in the United States watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television every year?  To me, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the Macy's Day parade.  Promptly at 9 am in the morning, eastern time.  The television is tuned to the Thanksgiving Day parade (I'll probably dvr it, just in case I don't get up in time to see it), accompanied by the pleasant aroma of turkey and stuffing in the oven.  The kids watch the Thanksgiving parade while waiting for the Thanksgiving dinner menu to be done at or around 1 or 2 o'clock.  After Santa arrives in his sleigh on the television, it's time to eat some early Thanksgiving snacks.


   The annual Thanksgiving Day parade event in New York City was started by Macy's department store on Thanksgiving Day in 1924.  The first of the annual Thanksgiving day parades in the area, however, occurred at the Bamberger's department store in New Jersey.
  The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was made popular by immigrants.  It became a combination of the American Thanksgiving tradition and the European custom of having a festival.  The firstr Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York was comprised mostly of Macy's employees.  The employees dressed as clowns or in other colorful costumes.  They marched together from Harlem to the main Macy's store on 34th Street at Herald Square.


   There were also floats and marching bands, just like in today's Macy's Day parades.  During the first parade, the Central Park Zoo donated 25 live animals for the Thanksgiving Day parade.  Santa led the Macy's Day parade in 1934.  Except for that one year, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade has always ended with Santa arriving.  More than 250,000 people attended the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  Macy's immediately announced that the Thanksgiving parade would be held every year.
   The live animals from the Central Park Zoo were featured in Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade for three years.  Then they were replaced with extra large balloons that were shaped like animals.  Felix the Cat was the first balloon ever in the Macy's Day Parade.


   The parade balloons were a huge success.  Originally, they were released at the end of the Macy's Day parade.  Whoever found them won a Macy's gift certificate.
  The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade continued to grow in popularity each year.  In less than a decade, more than a million people attended the Thanksgiving Day parade.  The parade began to be announced on the radio.  The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade became famous nationwide after being included in the classic Christmas movie, "Miracle on 34th Street", in 1947.


   The only years Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade didn't occur were 1942-44.  World War II caused a rubber and helium shortage.  Because of this, the Thanksgiving parade was cancelled. 
   The annual Thanksgiving parade resumed in 1945.  The Macy's Day parade was televised for the first time in New York.  To make the Thanksgiving Day parade easier to film, the parade route was changed.  The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade uses this same route today.


   Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades have evolved from the very first Macy's Day parade.  Today's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade includes over 10.000 parade participants.  Giant helium balloons are displayed by marching volunteers.  Hot celebrities perform live for the parade event.  Floats and marching bands still entertain viewers.


   Today, almost three million people watch the Macy's Day parade in person in New York City.  Over 40 million people watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television every year.  NBC has broadcast the Thanksgiving parade for over 50 years.  Television coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade has even earned Emmy Awards.



   Most people watch the Macy's Day parade on Thanksgiving Day.  The famous Thanksgiving Day parade is almost as traditional as turkey and dressing.  More than 40 million viewers watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television each year.  Many tune in just to see the huge parade balloons. 
   The history of the Macy's parade balloons is an interesting one.  The very first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924 didn't have balloons.  Instead, real live animals were borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.
   Large balloons weren't used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  Macy's Day parade balloons were inflated with air the first year that they were used.  Each year after that, helium was used to fill the huge parade balloons.


   The first year that Macy's used helium balloons they released them at the end of the parade for a big finish.  The balloons accidentally burst.  The next year the Macy's parade balloons were redesigned so that they would lose helium slowly and float for several days.
   Originally, the huge Thanksgiving Day balloon's were released at the end of the parade.  The grandiose balloons had attached address labels.  The lucky people who found and returned the balloons received Macy's gift certificates for 100 dollars or some other prize.


   The 1941 Macy's Day parade occurred just weeks before the start of World War II.  It featured a prominent Uncle Same helium parade balloon.  When rubber became in short supply because of the war, the famous Uncle Sam balloon was donated by Macy's to support the war.
   The Thanksgiving Day parade balloons require massive amounts of helium.  For example, the Jimmy Neutron balloon needs 12,300 cubic feet of helium to be properly inflated.  By comparison, a 10 foot diameter hot air balloon needs 475 cubic feet of helium.


   The balloons are inflated by volunteers the night before the parade.  The balloons are unfolded.  Then they are covered with nets and weighted down.  Next, the parade balloons are inflated.  The whole process takes six hours.  Many people attend to watch the balloons as they inflate.  Some say that watching the parade balloons inflate is more fun than watching the actual Thanksgiving Day parade.
   The Macy's Day parade balloons are guided along the parade route by volunteers.  Some of the balloons require 50 handlers.


Popular Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

   Bullwinkle is one of the oldest Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloons.  He is also one of the most popular of all the Macy's balloons.
   Mickey Mouse first appeared in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 1934.  He has been a favorite balloon at the Macy's Day parade ever since.  Mickey's friend, Goofy has also been transformed into a Macy's balloon.
   Snoopy is another favorite parade balloon. He has appeared in Macy's Day parades since the late 60's.  he has worn six different costumes including an astronaut, a king, an ice skater, and of course, a World War I flying ace.  Charlie Brown has also made an appearance at the Thanksgiving Day parade, trying to kick that elusive football.  Snoopy's pal Woodstock,  is another Charles Schulz creation that has floated in the Macy's parade.


   Cartoon characters have always been popular balloons at the Macy's Day Thanksgiving parade.  Woody Woodpecker, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Garfield, Bart Simpson, Pink Panther, Bugs Bunny, and Rugrats have all been honored at Macy's parade.  Many other cartoon characters have been made into balloons for the Macy's Day parade.
   Several Sesame Street characters have appeared as balloons at the Macy's Day parade.  Kermit the Frog has been navigated through the parade route.  Big Bird has appeared in two different versions.  Grover has been transformed at the Thanksgiving Day parade into Super Grover.


   Superman has appeared in several Macy's Day parades since 1940.  Superman has been the biggest Macy's Day parade balloon ever.
   Corporations haven't missed their chance to advertise at the famous Thanksgiving Day parade.  Some of the company balloons have been popular.  They have included the Energizer Bunny, Ronald McDonald, Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Nestle Quick Bunny, and M&M's candies.


   How Are the Macy's Day Balloons Made?

   The first step in making a Macy's parade balloon is drawing the sketch.  Details are evaluated and approved by aerodynamics engineers to be sure the balloon can fly.
   If the balloon passes the first test, a clay model of the parade balloon is  made.  The clay balloon model is an exact replica of the balloon built to scale.  Close attention to detail is used to be certain that the balloon will be an exact likeness of the original character and that the balloon will be ale to float successfully.


   Next, a second model is used that is painted with the exact details of the future parade balloon.  Exact polyurethane pattern pieces are then cut.  Each balloon has several chambers with an inflation tool and a large zipper.
   The Macy's parade balloon is assembled and given a test flight.  Each chamber is inspected for leaks. If all goes well, the balloon will be guided down the route for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.


Macy's Day Parade Balloon Incidents

   Popeye's sailor hat filled with water in 1957.  He got so heavy that the balloon handlers lost control.  The balloon got off course and dumped water on spectators.  There was a helium shortage during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in 1958.  but the parade and balloons did go on.  The Macy's Day parade balloons were inflated with plain air and suspended with huge cranes.
  The 1971, the Mickey Mouse parade balloon was canceled because of high winds.  He appeared the next year in the holiday parade.


   Wind was also a major problem during the 1997 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  Wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour kept balloon handlers on their toes, sometimes literally.  The wind caused a Cat in the Hat parade balloon to hit a street lamp.  One parade spectator got injured severely and was in a coma for a month.  This prompted the local government to implement stricter safety parade rules.
   In 2005, the M& M's Macy's Day parade balloon also hit a street lamp.  Two people suffered minor injuries.  As a result, new rules required the balloons to fly at lower altitudes.
   The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade continues to be a big hit with Americans more than 80 years later.  Hopefully, 80 years into the future, kids will still wake up on Thanksgiving morning and rush to watch the Macy's Day parade.  After all, Christmas doesn't start until Santa arrives at the end of the Macy's parade, does it????




      Burning Yule logs is a tradition dating back long before the birth of Jesus.  In pre-Christian times, the Yule log was burned in the home hearth on the winter solstice in honor of the pagan sun god Odin, known also as the Yule Father or Oak King.
    The winter solstice, known amongst pagans as Yule or Gwyl Canol Gaeaf, falls on December 21 or 22, whichever is the shortest day and longest night of the current year.  The Yule festival symbolizes a battle between the powers of light (Oak King) and powers of darkness (Holly King).  A Yule log, typically a thick branch taken from a oak tree, would be burned in the hearth beginning on this night as a celebration of the Oak King's triumphant defeat over the Holly King.

Burning the Yule log


   The traditional Yule celebration would begin at dawn with the cutting of the oak branch, which was then ceremoniously carried into the house.  Lit by the father or oldest member of the family, the Yule log would be left to burn for the next 12 days.  When evening arrived the family would gather for dinner, which would typically included mutton, goose, pork, beef, special Yule breads, porridge, apples, sweets, nut and Yule ale.
   As Christianity spread throughout Europe the traditional Yule celebration became associated with the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus, the Yule
Father being replaced with Father Christmas.  In Serbia, the Yule log, or badnjak as it is called there, is cut and burned in the hearth as part of its Christmas festivities.  In years past, the head of the family would go into the forest on Christmas Eve morning to cut down the badnjak.  Before bringing it home he would take the log to the church for a special blessing.  In more recent years, the badnjak ins usually gotten at marketplaces or form the churches.

Oak King


   The Yule log is a part of French tradition as well, especially it's Yule Log Cake or Buche de Noel.  This traditional Christmas dessert is made from a sponge cake that has been baked in a shallow pan.  After baking, the cake is filled with a creamy frosting, rolled up into a cylinder, and frosted with the remaining frosting along the top and sides so as to resemble a tree log.  A small portion of the cake is usually cut off and placed alongside or on top of the larger piece in order to reveal the bark-like appearance of its insides.  For some bakers, adding meringue mushrooms for that extra woodsy look not only enhances the realism of their Yule log but also is a lot of fun.  "The Bouche de Noel" is a very favorite, traditional French cake during the holidays.
   The creation of this culinary Yule Log, now baked throughout the world, dates back to Napoleon I.  A stern believer that cold air caused medical problems, Napoleon issued a proclamation requiring households in Paris to keep their chimneys closed during the winter month, preventing resident from burning the Yule log.

Yuel log cake or Buche de Noel


   French bakers invented the Buche de Noel as a symbolic replacement.  In England, according to the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program,  On Christmas Eve, members of the household ventured into the woods to find and cut a great tree, preferably an oak.  Size was important, because the Yule log had to burn throughout the twelve days of Christmas.  Once cut, the log was dragged home with much celebration.  As many people as possible grabbed onto the ropes to help pull, because doing so was believed to bring good luck in the new year.  Even passersby raised their hat in tribute.
   The Yule log was dragged to the hearth of the great open fireplace, a common household feature in old England.  The log was lit with a scrap of burned log carefully preserved from the previous year, a practice that ensured the continuity of good fortune not only from year to year, but also from generation to generation.


   As a Christmas tradition, burning the Yule log eventually spread from England to America.  It's more popular fame as a tradition in the U.S., especially in New York, comes in the form of a televised Yule log broadcasted first in 1966 at the WPIX television station in New York when Fred Thrower, the then General Manager for the television station, brought the tradition of burning the Yule log into viewers homes.  Inspired b a Coke commercial he had seen depicting Santa Claus in front of a fireplace the previous year.  Thrower, and then WPIX-FM programming director Charlie Whittaker, created the Yule Log, a Christmas program featuring an actual Yule log burning in a fireplace.  The crackling wood fire, accompanied by the music of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and others, played non stop for two hours on Christmas Eve.  Filmed at Gracie Mansion, the Yule Log was Thrower's Christmas gift to New Yorkers who hadn't a home hearth.  The program aired continuously from 1966-1989.

Traditional Yule feast

   Breaking tradition is not something most are willing to accept.  In most cases it's unthough of.  Canceling the Yule Log was not to be an exception for Joe Malzone, creator of the fan site, Bring Back the Log and others who missed the program.  "I had gotten more than 600 emails from people all over the country, which I forwarded each and every one to WPIX.  It was becoming quite clear that those who grew up with the log definitely wanted to see its return".  Malzone was once again able to enjoy the Yule Log in 2001.  Since then, similar programs have been broadcasted throughout the country on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
   Having options such as Thrower's televised program and France's culinary dessert should keep the Yule Log tradition around for year to come, especially in homes where there is no fireplace.


  Most of us know that with winter creeping up on us, there are holiday's coming up, too.  here in the United States, that typically means Christmas and New year's Eve.  But what about the rest of the world?  There are many holidays that are observed this time of  year from all over the globe, whether by different religions, cultures or countries.


Chanukah (Hanukkah)

   Chanukah or Hanukkah literally means "rededication"; the Jewish "Festival of Lights", celebrating the Jewish victory at the temple and the 8 days the lamp oil lasted when there was only enough for one day during the rededication of the temple.  It begins at sundown on the 25th day of the month, Kislev, on the Jewish calendar (in Nov/Dec).  Some common things seen during this celebration are the menorah, which has nine candles, one lit for each day and one to light with; latkes, or potato pancakes; dreidals, which are spinning tops used for a game of betting; sufganiyot, unshaped jelly donuts with no holes.


Chinese New Year

   Chinese New Year observance is set by the Chinese calendar, which is based on lunar and solar movement.  The festivities start with the first new moon of the new year and end on the full moon 15 days later.  Each day observes a different theme.  The 15th day is known as the Lantern Festival; this is a time of family reunion, celebration adn thanksgiving, and religious ceremonies for ancestors, gods, and heaven and earth.



   Kwanzaa is from matunda yakwanza, from the phrase "fist fruit".  A seven day event, lasting from December 26th to January 1st, honoring African American people, culture and history, where community, gathering and reflection are celebrated.  This observance was created by Dr. Maulan Karenge in 1966 to celebrate the African American culture.  Each evening, a family member lights candles in a special candle holder and there is a discussion of the 7 principles of Kwanzaa (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith).  On the 6th day, family and friends eat a large feast and celebrate history, culture and the upcoming new year.



   Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar, which includes feasting during daylight hours each day (no food or drink) and small meals with family and friends in the evenings; there are also other restrictions.  A time of worship and contemplation, concentrating on faith and spending less time on concerns of everyday life.  The evening of the 27th day of the month, known as Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power), is considered to be the time when Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran, and when God determines the course the world for the following year.  When the fasting ends there are three days of holiday, known as Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking), with gift giving and prayer, feasting, and sometimes fairs.



   Shichi-Go-San is a Japanese festival, literally meaning "Seven-Five-Three".  On November 15th the closest weekend; a celebration for girls 3 and 7 years old and boys 3 and 5 years old, evolved from designated milestones of childhood.  The children dress in their best clothes, traditionally kimonos, but often western clothing, and pray at shrines to ensure futures free of sickness and misfortune.  They are given chitose-ame, or thousand year candy, in long white paper bags covered with symbols of luck and longevity.  This is the most auspicious day of the year according to the Chinese calendar, but it is not a national holiday, and is celebrated out of tradition.


Saint Lucia Day (luciadagen)

   Saint Lucia Day is a Swedish holiday set on December 13th, considered the beginning of the holiday season and honoring St. Lucia, a virgin martyr.  The story of Lucia consists of this saint going out in the early morning with food and drink for the poor, she was persecuted for being a Christian who wouldn't give up her faith to marry an unbeliever.  This story is acted out in family homes, with the oldest daughter playing the "Lucia bride", bringing her parents a tray of sweet saffron buns and coffee.  She wears a white gown with a red sash and a crown of greens, and her siblings will dress in white and follow her, carrying lit candles.  This feast day marked the return of the sun.



   Tet is the Vietnamese new year; the start of the new year in the lunar calendar, between the last ten days of January and mid February.  A festival after the harvest lasting three days, when everyone is nice and careful not to show anger or rudeness.  Families try their best to get together during this time.  On the family altar, joss sticks are lit several times a day, and offerings of food, fruit, water, flowers and betel are made for friendship, ancestors and children.  Red envelopes containing money are given to children for a lucky year.


Boxing Day

   Boxing Day is celebrated in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  It falls on December 26th, which is also St. Stephen's Day in Britain.  This holiday is of unknown origin, and possibly dates back to the middle ages.  One explanation for the foundation of the holiday is that it was once customary for tradesmen (service people) to collect their Christmas boxes or gifts in return for good service throughout the year; also included giving money and gifts to the needy and charities.  In England, because it is also St. Stephen's Day, it has become associated with horse racing and hunting (along with other sports).
   Scotland does not celebrate Boxing Day, but makes up for it with Hogmanay, a huge festival of revelry on December 31st, much like our own New Year's Eve, though only celebrated on a large scale in recent years.
   Each culture celebrates with different traditions.  We have a great tradition here in the United States, but there is so much more going on in the fall and winter across the globe.  By celebrating long standing traditions or finding new ones, the colder months can be filled with lots of high spirits, and winter can seem less dull.