Parades date to ancient civilizations when armies would march in front of the people they conquered. The connotation has changed slightly over time, however, and the word has come to mean “to march in procession” or “to display ostentatiously.”
Today, parades are an essential component of many major holiday celebrations, especially Christmas.
The Largest Christmas Parade
Originally, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was the Macy’s Christmas Parade. Opening with Tom Turkey—the oldest, most recurring float—and ending with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the largest parade in the nation celebrates two holidays in one event.
In 1924, Macy’s expanded its Manhattan flagship department store to cover a city block (roughly 1 million square feet of shopping). As a gift to the City of New York, Macy’s hosted a parade to give thanks and to open the Christmas season. The event was such a success that Macy’s announced in the next day’s paper that it would host another parade in 1925. Except for three years during World War II, Macy’s has hosted the parade.
Macy’s first parade only spanned two city blocks but participants hiked six miles. Features included clowns, floats, animals on loan from the Central Park Zoo and, of course, Santa Claus. Today, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade only travels two-and-a-half miles, but it stretches 43 blocks. The party still includes floats (such as Tom Turkey, who’s been opening the parade since 1971), clowns and Santa Claus, but the live animals were replaced with gigantic balloons in 1927. One of the original balloons—Felix the Cat—was reintroduced in 2018, bringing a touch of nostalgia to last year’s event.
The Longest-Running Christmas Parade
Though there is some skepticism over the actual date of the first event, Peoria, Illinois, claims the longest-running Santa Claus parade. Some sources say that in 1887 a parade of boats floated down the Illinois River to celebrate the Upper Free Bridge. Santa is said to have made his first appearance on a river barge during this parade. In 1889, Schipper & Block first sponsored the parade (which the company continued to do until 1966).
Along with Santa, several other vintage floats make an appearance year after year. A Conestoga (or covered) wagon has been in the parade since the first year. The “Old Woman in a Shoe” float has been around since 1923. Surprisingly, Santa did not have his own reindeer and sleigh until 1995, though he has marched every year. Nevertheless, the parade has become a tradition shared among generations.
Greenville Area Parades
Almost every city and town in the United States has its own version of a Christmas parade. Here’s a list of the Christmas parades taking place in the Greenville area. So, bundle up, grab your friends and some hot cocoa, and dash through the (fake) snow. There isn’t much that will put you in the Christmas spirit better than a good, old-fashioned Christmas parade.
Simpsonville Christmas Parade
Main St., Simpsonville
Dec. 1 — 3 p.m.
Fountain Inn Christmas Parade
Main St., Fountain Inn
Dec. 4 — 5:30 p.m.
Highlands Olde Mountain Christmas Parade
Downtown Highlands, N.C.
Dec. 7 — 11 a.m.
Mauldin’s Christmas Kick-Off Parade
East Butler Rd., Mauldin
Dec. 7 — 2 p.m.
Downtown Brevard Christmas Parade and Twilight Tour
Downtown Brevard, N.C.
Dec. 7 — Parade: 3 p.m.; Twilight Tour: 4–7:30 p.m.
Laurens Christmas Parade
W. Main St., Laurens
Dec. 7 — 5 p.m.
Greenville Poinsettia Christmas Parade
Main St., Greenville
Dec. 7 — 6 p.m.
Greer Christmas Parade
Poinsett St., Greer
Dec. 8 — 2:30 p.m.
Travelers Rest Christmas Parade
Main St., Travelers Rest
Dec. 14 — 11 a.m.
Easley Christmas Parade of Lights
Dec. 14 — 6 p.m.
Don’t miss the rest of the Around Greenville series for more to see and do in BJU’s hometown!