How to Watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2019 Online and on TV

Many people genuinely love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with all its floats, balloons, marching bands, Broadway performances and the climactic appearance by Santa Claus. Other people like to make fun of what they see as a cheese-fest. 

Either way, the Macy’s parade has become a tradition, marking the official start of the Christmas season, even if decorations have already been in some stores for about a month. The parade, now in its 93rd year, figures into the streaming world in more ways than one. 

What’s in the Macy’s parade this year?

The Olaf from 'Frozen' balloon floats down Central Park West during the 91st Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

The parade, which starts at 9 AM Eastern time on NBC, will feature a performance by Celine Dion, whose heart will go on singing a song from her new album Courage, according to the official parade site. NBC bills the show-opener as a “must-see” with the Sesame Street Muppets. The Muppets have long had a presence in the parade at least via the Kermit the Frog balloon, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of the beloved children’s program. 

Every year the parade has about five full musical numbers from Broadway hits, with the 2019 lineup including Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Beetlejuice, Hadestown and Ain’t Too Proud, the last of which is a tribute to the Motown band The Temptations. These performances take place on the main stage in front of Macy’s itself. Other singers will appear on floats, including former Glee mom and daughter Idina Menzel and Lea Michele, who both have new Christmas albums out this year.

The balloons are quite literally the parade’s biggest attraction, and this year, a new version of Snoopy will appear, with the world-famous beagle flying as an astronaut in a nod to the Peanuts Apple TV+ series Snoopy in Space. According to Playbill, other new balloons include Green Eggs and Ham. As it happens, those are both nods to streaming specials, with the Dr. Seuss float springing from a Netflix show.  Speaking of streaming, if you’re without regular TV, you can stream the parade on NBC.com 

How did the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade get started?

The parade — arguably the most famous of all parades — started in 1924, replacing what had been known as Ragamuffin Day. That event had kids doing a form of trick-or-treating, but that tradition was frowned upon by the mid-1930s, with the Great Depression bearing down on the country and especially New York City. 

The event, now tied to the growing department store on 34th Street, was an immediate hit, growing every year until it drew more than 1 million onlookers. The signature balloons became a staple by the 1930s, and in 1932, the parade becomes a multimedia event when it was broadcast on the radio. 

From 1942 to 1944, the parade was not held due to World War II, but the parade came back in a big way, especially by 1947, with the release of Miracle on 34th Street. That made the parade nationally famous, with television broadcasts beginning the following year. 

See more than one ‘Miracle on 34th St.’  

Here’s another way streaming figures into the parade. After this year’s parade is over, you can watch the 1947 movie on Disney+, which picked up the movie as part of its 20th Century Fox acquisition.

It stars Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and the Oscar-winning Kris Kringle, Edmund Gwenn, who also played Santa in the actual parade. The movie was filmed partly inside Macy’s, and in one shot, Looney Tunes characters can clearly be seen on the wall. What would Mickey say? 

Miracle on 34th Street has been remade several times, but Disney+ only carries the original, which is one of the few Christmas movies to be Oscar-nominated for Best Picture. The others include The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant, which was nominated the same year, and the year before that, a ubiquitous little movie called It’s a Wonderful Life had been up for the prize.