The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Nostalgia Vs. Guilt

Every year on Thanksgiving, being the nostalgic, tradition junkie that I am, I sit down with my family in the morning to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Stemming from traditions seen in Europe, the first parade was put on by Macy’s employees who were first-generation immigrants wanting to have festivals similar to the ones their families experienced growing up in Europe. The parade runs for a whopping three hours, stuffed with overly cheesy holiday music, gigantic floats, marching bands, dancers, celebrities, large cartoon helium balloons and Broadway Show performers. While I admit that I may be getting a little old for this tradition, there are certain things that will always be comforting and take me back to a time when things were a bit simpler and a lot less stressful. I am definitely a sucker for this time of the year and all of the bells and whistles that come along with it. With that said, as I get older, and as a design student, I start to get agitated by certain parade elements that never would have bothered me at a young age. For example, the lip-synching can get pretty terrible and leaves you wondering what would be so wrong with live performances. When you’re young, the performers lip movements being somewhat inconsistent with their singing doesn’t really register in your mind. It’s all magical and flawless and nothing can change that. Nowadays, as I become more and more educated and aware, there is a new emotion that creeps up when watching such an indulgent form of entertainment: GUILT. When you become aware of just how much energy has to be wasted to put on a production of this size, especially at a time when the environment needs as much as help as it can get, your mind starts to wander to these issues as the cast of Sesame Street waves intensely on the screen. Recently a new issue brings this guilt to a higher level; the world is running out of helium. Helium is the world’s second lightest element and is a non-renewable resource. While helium is notorious for making the fun cartoon balloons float high in the sky for the duration of the Macy’s parade, it had also been used to make our voices sound funny (don’t try this at home kiddies), and to help deep sea divers breathe under water. However, putting these entertaining uses aside, Helium is a very important gas that is used for airships, rockets, telescopes and most importantly MRI Scanners. As the Helium runs out, scientists predict that it may run out completely within the next 20 years, leaving the world without a very important resource and possibly leaving hospitals void of the ability to use MRI Scanners. In 2006, the parade production team learned of this issue and limited the amount of balloons they used, but couldn’t rid of them completely due to popular demand. As a society, we seem to care more about entertainment than the well being of the universe, which is probably what causes environmental deterioration in the first place. I can’t help but feel guilty as I giggle watching a gigantic Smurf balloon float down 34th street. So what ultimately wins out? Do I boycott the parade in favor of the Helium or do I stick to my annual familial traditions and hope that the parade team will eventually make changes? …Until next year, Happy Holidays!

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