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The idea for a parade on Thanksgiving originated in Philadelphia back in 1920, thanks to Gimbels department store. In the intervening century, a city to the north has stolen the thunder, presenting a glittery Turkey Day spectacle broadcast around the nation.
But if you’re looking for something that captures the day’s spirit, Philly’s parade is better.
Thanksgiving has roots in colonialism, and remains inextricably connected with capitalism (that first parade was all marketing, and the holiday is now considered the kickoff to shopping season) but the holiday is being reclaimed. Many Americans use it as a chance to reflect, give back, and give thanks for family, friends, and being alive.
The Philadelphia parade conveys that gratefulness for the everyday existence we all share.
Its floats are kind of frumpy. Its celebrities are local: this year they included Gritty, Jeopardy champ Ryan Long, and — in a kind of a coup, because she’s pretty famous now — Quinta Brunson of “Abbott Elementary.” Yet the volunteers pulling the balloons, the highschoolers marching in the bands, the spectators along the sidelines, every person involved full of smiles and cheer.
On a perfect sunny day, the city gave itself an opportunity to be thankful.