Thursday, November 28, 2013

Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Philadelphia seems to have more parades than anywhere I've ever lived. Okay, that's not a lot. DC, Portland, a small town in Virginia no one's ever heard of. But Philadelphia does a fine job commemorating holidays, even unconventional holidays, with great reverence. And we do it well.

Traditionally the Thanksgiving Day Parade doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving so much as it kicks off the Christmas season, and particularly the shopping season.

Although the national Thanksgiving Day Parade has its roots in Philadelphia, it was embraced by Macy's in New York as a means to push its wares for the month before Christmas.

Obviously no parade can rival Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but Philadelphia doesn't rest on its laurels when it comes to parading down the Parkway.

However any Thanksgiving Day Parade is more than a collection of high school bands culminating in a fat white guy sitting on top of a chimney. It's a moving billboard telling people to start shopping.

That's why America's oldest Thanksgiving parade was started in 1920 by Gimbels, and paraded past its flagship store at 8th and Market. Crowds would  gather to watch the parade, then turn to extravagant display windows along Market East aglow with toys eagerly anticipated by brats on their fathers' shoulders.

It was like a scene out of A Christmas Story. It was A Christmas Story.

Of course the (official title) "6ABC - Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade" doesn't have the same capitalistic allure of the Macy's or Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade, nor does 6ABC or Dunkin' Donuts share the motivation. On the Parkway, our Thanksgiving parade does little more than publically celebrate one of the year's more introverted holidays.

Honestly, a Halloween parade would be more interesting.

What makes a Thanksgiving parade interesting, or even serve a purpose, is kicking off Christmas. Let's face it, unless it's full of floats decorated with pilgrims and Indians, it's not celebrating one night of gluttony. It's celebrating Christmas.

That's exactly why it belongs on Market East. Although our commercial core continues to struggle, it's home to Macy's and the city's only shopping mall. While Kmart and Old Navy refuse to appropriately decorate their display windows for the holiday season, imagine what those windows would look like if they knew thousands of potential customers would be spending Thanksgiving morning right outside their doors.

It would remind Philadelphians what Market East is, was, and will be. It would tell cynics the corridor is still very relevant. It would force the Gallery to clean up its act, at least for a month.

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