A Longstanding Tradition: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

I’m not a native New Yorker, but there’s one quintessential NYC event that is part of my earliest childhood memories – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Growing up, my Thanksgivings were filled with traditions. The family would get up early to get Thanksgiving dinner started, and then my sister and I would sit down in front of the TV to watch the parade. I remember our excitement as we watched the oversized character balloons making their way down the city streets, the sound of the marching bands, the Broadway song and dance routines, and the glamorous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. We’d get so excited as the end of the parade drew near, knowing we’d soon see Santa Claus and his sleigh. After the parade was over, the family would sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. Later, after the dinner dishes were washed and put away, we’d put up our Christmas tree as Elvis Presley’s Christmas album played in the background. Thanksgiving was the beginning of our holiday season.

Despite watching the parade every year on TV – in fact, I don’t think I’ve missed the parade in almost 50 years – I never had the opportunity to see it in person. Since we moved to New York City a few years ago, we’ve talked about it but haven’t gone. That ended this year, when we woke up and realized the cable television was out. If we were going to continue our parade tradition, we were going to have to do it in person. We quickly threw on some clothes and rushed to the subway, hoping to get to the parade route before the start of the parade. We headed to the west side of Central Park, near the start of the parade route, and arrived just in time to claim a good spot.

Ready to watch the parade with me?








Although we didn’t get to see the Broadway productions or the Rockettes on our part of the route, the parade still brought back all those lovely childhood memories of the holidays. And we agreed that going to the parade will be part of our future Thanksgiving traditions!

So what are your favorite holiday traditions?

Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade

New York City has a parade to celebrate almost anything (and anyone) but among the best is the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade. Billed as the largest dog parade in the world, the annual parade includes hundreds of costumed dogs and their owners. Anyone can participate – no advanced registration is necessary, and the suggested registration at the door is only $5.00. Some dogs wear store-bought costumes, and others sport costumes made by their owners. In fact, some dog parents get in on the act, dressing themselves to match the theme of their dogs’ outfits. There are even prizes for the best costumes!

Here are some of my favorites from this year’s parade, which took place yesterday. It was a warm, sunny day, perfect for watching or participating in a parade.

First, Chihuahuas Tansy and Corazon, who as a lobster and a mermaid were definitely a sweet catch. (They have their own Instagram account: @TheLilGremlins.)

Our other Instagram couple had more of a political leaning, probably making the most sense for my American followers – here are a couple of members of the current president’s press team. This is Itty Bitty the Griff (@ittystagram), playing the role of Kellyanne Conway,  and Ralphie (@ralphienyc), playing Sean Spicer.

Aside from these more famous participants, there were plenty of other options out there, from pizza pups to the Pope.

How about a bark-ista from the nearest Star-barks?

Several dogs, like this one, appear to have been inspired by the novel and TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale.


There was the Weber grill dog, complete with shish kebabs.

How about the “Chick Magnet”?

And finally, one of my favorites, who looked like one cool pup.

We left inspired for next year’s parade, when our dog Newton will be old enough to participate. What kind of costume do you think we should create for him?

NYC’s Korean Day Parade

One of the things I’ve always loved about New York City is the variety of parades. We have parades for almost every major holiday – among them the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Easter Bonnet Parade. And then there are the parades celebrating this city’s history as the home of immigrants. We have the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (celebrating the Irish), the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Chinese Lunar New Year Parades, the Greek Independence Day Parade, the German-American Steuben Parade, the Tartan Day Parade (for the Scots), the Hispanic Day Parade (celebrating immigrants from Latin America), the Columbus Day Parade (celebrating the Italian-American community), the Pulaski Day Parade (celebrating Polish-American immigrants), the West Indian Day Parade, and so many more.

This is a holiday weekend, with many New Yorkers having an extra day off because of Columbus Day. The Columbus Day weekend brings three annual parades to New York City. Yesterday, the Korean Day Parade marched down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Today, despite light rain at the start, the Hispanic Day Parade was held, and tomorrow is the Columbus Day Parade. Having not attended the Korean Day Parade before, we decided to check it out. I’m so glad that we did!

The parade contained marchers from a variety of religious, business, and social organizations. I’ve picked a few of my favorite photos, presented below, to give you a sense of the colors and traditional Korean clothing. I hope that you enjoy!


NYC Pride March 2017

During the month of June communities across the United States celebrate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride Month. As part of the month’s celebrations, many large cities host Pride Parades and Festivals. New York City certainly hosts those kinds of festivities, but instead of a parade there is an annual Pride March.

The timing of Pride each year, as well as NYC’s decision to hold a march rather than a parade, has important historical roots. American society in the 1960s was extremely homophobic, and LGBT persons often faced harassment and persecution by police and the larger society. Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. The LGBT community in New York City, like those elsewhere at that time, were accustomed to being targeted by police, but this time the NYC community decided to push back. Over the next few days, many people participated in the Stonewall Riots or Stonewall Uprising. Today, the modern LGBT rights movement traces its roots back to those critical days in June 1969. We honor that history by celebrating and marching every June.

Last Sunday was this year’s Pride March in the city. Like the protests that form its historical foundation, this year’s march was as much about protest and communicating about important issues facing the LGBT community as it was about celebration. Don’t get me wrong, there was a fun spirit surrounding the march and much entertainment, but there were also many participants communicating serious messages.

Here are some photos illustrating the range of participants and messages of this year’s Pride March – I hope you enjoy!

A Second Line Parade in NYC

Recently, New York City hosted the annual Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival, a celebration of the top high school jazz bands in the United States. The event is hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center, a world-renown center for jazz music. Wynton Marsalis, the famous jazz musician and composer, is the Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Now, you may be thinking that a high school music competition is not for you, but here’s where you are wrong. The Essentially Ellington Competition begins with a New Orleans-style Second Line Parade, led by Wynton Marsalis himself. If you are like me, you may not know what a Second Line Parade is. I did my research before I went, and here’s the description I found on a New Orleans tourism website:

Second line parades are the descendants of the [New Orleans’] famous jazz funerals and, apart from a casket, mourners and a cemetery visit, they carry many of the same traditions with them as they march down the streets. … They range in size, level of organization and traditions, but in all cases they will include a brass band, jubilant dancing in the street and members decked out in a wardrobe of brightly colored suits, sashes, hats and bonnets, parasols and banners, melding the pomp of a courtly function and the spontaneous energy of a block party, albeit one that moves a block at a time. The parades are not tied to any particular event, holiday or commemoration; rather, they are generally held for their own sake and to let the good times roll.

How fun to experience a New Orleans-style Second Line Parade in New York City! The parade began by the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, located at the southwest corner of Central Park. It was only a short march to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s location, but it was a wonderful experience to listen and follow along. Bystanders traveled beside and behind the musicians, snapping photos along the way – I joined in the festivities. In addition to those playing musical instruments, there were students carrying posters promoting music education as well.

I invite you to follow along with the Second Line Parade through my photos below:

Can’t you just hear the jazz in the background?

NYC’s Colorful Dance Parade

New York City has parades celebrating many things, and one of the most fun is the Dance Parade. Yesterday was the 11th annual Dance Parade and Festival, which according to the organizers is held “to inspire dance through the celebration of diversity.”

The parade was a riot of colors and sounds, and the diversity of the dancers was truly magnificent. My favorite part of the parade: the look of joy on so many of the dancers’ faces. I think these photos speak for themselves!

Don’t these photos make you want to dance? What was your favorite?

NYC’s Easter Bonnet Parade 2017

I know I recently wrote about a parade (the Tartan Day Parade, which you can find here), but a few weeks ago New York City was host to one of my favorite parades: the Easter Bonnet Parade! I’m a little behind getting the blog post up about it (blame the hectic last few weeks of the semester at the law school!), but I couldn’t resist sharing my photos from this year’s parade.

New York City’s Easter Bonnet Parade is a long-standing tradition, tracing its roots back to the 1870s. There are several historic churches along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the wealthier residents of the city would dress in their best Easter finery, including elaborate hats, to go to church that morning. After church, people would parade up and down Fifth Avenue showing off their beautiful clothing as poorer residents gathered to observe. For many years, the parade was a major highlight of the spring, something that attracted huge crowds – in fact, by the mid-20th century, as many as 1 million people attended the event! Irving Berlin even wrote a song about the parade, which eventually became the title song for the 1948 movie Easter Parade, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland.

Today, the crowds are much smaller, but it is still a great event for everyone involved. One of the reasons why the Easter Bonnet Parade is so much fun is that it is interactive. Rather than watching from the sidelines, those coming to watch the parade wander up and down the streets with the parade participants. There are no barricades (aside from those stopping automobile traffic), and really no rules. People wander up and down the street however they want, stopping to pose for and take photos of each other.

Some people stay true to the original approach, either wearing vintage-style clothing and hats or what you would normally expect to see people wear if dressing up for church. Others make their own headwear (often with corresponding costumes), ranging from the tacky to festive to high fashion. Sometimes a group of friends or family members create outfits that follow a common theme; other times you will see a person and their dog attired similarly. Everywhere you look you will see something different. The one thing that’s guaranteed: you will have fun!

Now that I’ve written at length about the parade, how about some photos? I hope you enjoy!

These first two women carried out the vintage theme in style.

These two were beautiful – although only the older one was wearing a hat.

This next one catches the spirit of the event – the woman in the middle wanted a photo with the two dressed-up men!

Here’s a family that took do-it-yourself to a new level – aren’t they great?

This man brought his own frame to the parade – and he would pose with you in it if you wanted to.

The woman on the right coordinated her outfit with her well-trained dog, and they were in high demand for photos. The stylish couple on the left were excited to have their photos taken with them.

Then there’s the wacky – but oh so much fun!

It was a very warm day, and I have to believe the guy in the bunny sweater suit was hot. But he still was enjoying himself though! The man on the right had fashioned his own hat out of an old-school Easter basket, turned upside down to become the base for a homemade birdcage.

This one is just sweet.

As you can tell from the photo below, the next one was in high demand from photographers – it almost looks like she is being chased by the paparazzi!

Yes, the man on the left has St. Patrick’s Cathedral on his head.

I’m not sure what you would call the next one, but he was sure accessorized!

The next couple was dancing in the street – one time it’s ok to stop traffic!

This guy had the right idea. The sun was bright, and a parasol would be handy.

This man was one of many people running around with large flower arrangements on their heads. He must have worked hard to make sure it matched his bright pink suit.

All I’ll say about the next one – some people really threw themselves into the spirit of things.

I’ll leave you with one last photo, this one of a young girl dressed in the more traditional Easter Parade attire.

Enjoy this so much that you want to see some pictures from last year’s parade? I wrote about it here.

NYC’s Tartan Day Parade

New York City’s Tartan Day Parade doesn’t have the long history of many of the city’s parades, but it has interesting origins. According to the New York City Tartan Week organizers,

In 1998 the U.S. Senate declared April 6 to be National Tartan Day to recognize the contributions made by Scottish-Americans to the United States. In 1999, two pipe bands and a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans marched from the British Consulate to the UN—our first Parade! Since then, we have grown to include hundreds of pipers, thousands of marchers and many more thousands cheering from the sidelines.

The National Tartan Day New York Committee was formed … in 2002 to organize the Parade and co-ordinate all the associated activities which surround the Parade. There are now so many it has become Tartan Week, with a definition of “week” as anything, so far, from 7-21 days.

Now that we know why they’re marching, let’s watch the parade! As you’ll see, there are plenty of tartans, bagpipes, and drums – although not everyone is wearing plaid. One of the fun things about this parade is that some pipe and drum corps will allow unaffiliated bagpipers to march with them, as long as they can play the 4 songs required for the parade: Scotland the Brave, Rowan tree, Blue Bells of Scotland, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The sun was shining brightly, so please forgive the lighting in some of these shots.

Now for one of my favorite parts of the parade: the Scottie and Westie dogs!

As we were leaving, I spied this creature peeking out above the crowd – could it possibly be Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster?

Celebrating the Lunar New Year in Flushing, Queens

New York City has the largest Asian-American population in the United States (at latest count approximately 12% of the city’s 8 million residents), so it’s unsurprising that the city is host to numerous Lunar New Year events. Most tourists attend Lunar New Year events in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, but other boroughs also hold Lunar New Year parades and other celebrations. This year, I decided to watch the Lunar New Year parade in Flushing, Queens. Over half of the Asian-American population lives in the borough of Queens, and Flushing is home to a second Chinatown.

The parade may not be quite so grand as the one in Manhattan, but it was a wonderful celebration of the community. My favorite things in the parade were the brightly colored dragons – they always drew cheers from the crowds as well.








There were also some child-sized dragons. See what I saw inside the dragon’s head?



Here are some of the marchers in the parade, dressed in various traditional costumes.












On a serious note, there was also this brightly decorated car, accompanied by people carrying signs about domestic violence. They were marching with a community organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence.


Finally, there were plenty of people in various stuffed costumes, from a character from a cartoon to buddhas – and let’s not forget the roosters, as this year is the year of the rooster!





Want to explore Flushing’s Chinatown for yourself? Take the 7 train all the way to the end of the line, to the Flushing-Main Street station. When you come above ground, you will be in the midst of Chinatown.

NYC’s Pulaski Day Parade

This past weekend was the annual celebration of a long-lasting New York City tradition: the Pulaski Day Parade. Founded 80 years ago, the Pulaski Day Parade celebrates General Casimir Pulaski, an American Revolutionary War hero. After meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris, the Polish general traveled to North America to fight with the Continental Army against the British. Eventually, after distinguishing himself in support of George Washington’s forces on more than one occasion, the Continental Congress gave Pulaski charge of the first American cavalry. Today, New York City’s Pulaski Day Parade celebrates both Pulaski’s contributions to American independence and Polish-American citizens in the New York City metropolitan area.


Unsurprisingly, then, the parade begins with this float featuring General Pulaski (or his look-alike).


This year, the parade’s theme was “Polish-American Youth, in Honor of World Youth Day, Krakow, Poland.” And there were plenty of children and teenagers (as well as adults) in the parade, including some dressed in traditional Polish clothing and Polish scouts.






Parade float celebrating World Youth Day


There were also a number of Polish and Polish-American veterans organizations in the parade.






And, like all parades, bystanders also saw numerous NYC police officers and fire fighters and marching bands.







A few final miscellaneous photos from this year’s Pulaski Day Parade:




Honoring Pulaski, who died on October 11, 1779 in the Battle of Savannah, the parade is held in early October each year. The parade marches its way up Fifth Avenue from 39th Street to 56th Street.