A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

What is Thanksgiving all about? It's about ringing in the season of conspicuous consumerism we call Christmas, right? So what better way to celebrate that than with a department store sponsored holiday tradition: The Macy's Thanksgiving balloons.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a staple of New York life since the '30s and part of the national consciousness since it's been on television. And nothing is as emblematic of the parade as the giant balloons that they haul across the city to the delight of millions. The figures they choose have as much to say about us and our culture as they do about wanting to buy a watch at Macy's. Let's take a look at their history.

And if you want to see the balloons being inflated, head to 77th and 81st Streets and Central Park West before 10pm today. Here's the rest of the info if you're crazy enough to actually want to watch the parade yourself.

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

A view of the parade in 1931 shows a weird lady balloon and a smiling sun. Boring, but probably awesome for their time.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

In 1932 the balloons were still figurative like an alligator, a turkey, and, I don't know, a cannon or some shit. Did they have cannons back then?

[Image via NYPL Digital Library]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

More views of our gator friend from 1932.

[Image via NYPL Digital Library]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

By the '60s the parade started with pop cultural figures, like Popeye here, in 1961. Olive Oyl was a block behind, but she's so skinny you can't see here.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Someone ate his spinach.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Bullwinkle, also in 1961.

[Image via Getty

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

This Spider-Man is from 1995 but he sure looks a lot older.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Elmo burst onto the scene in 1997.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

This is your childhood. The Rugrats, Arthur, and Bumpe in 1997.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

The Garfield must smell lasagna in one of those apartments. He sure partied like it was 1999.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

After 9/11 Macy's reintroduced this classic NYC Fire Fighter balloon in 2001.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Arthur was getting long in the tooth by 2001.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

This is Little Bill from Bill Cosby's Little Bill series in 2002. If we're making balloons of forgotten Bill Cosby things, I'd rather this be a Pudding Pop.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

In 2003 the Big Bird balloon suffered a horrible death.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Just like the real estate bubble of 2003, Monopoly man was headed for a bust.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Uncle Sam single handedly fought the war on terror in 2003.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Here is Ask Jeeves in 2004. Shouldn't he be back in the late '90s somewhere?

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

By 2004 no one even cares about Charlie Brown.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Spongebob Square Pants is going to dry out in the air like that!
[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Ronald McDonald is still making people fat in 2006.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Sesame Street characters are always popular with the kids and in 2007, Abby Cadabby made herself appear.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Hello Kitty tried to lure more Japanese tourists in 2007.

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Thanks to the Toy Story movies Mr. Potato Head got a new lease on life in 2007.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

By 2008 The Energizer Bunny was all out of juice.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

To 2009 and beyond!

[Image via AP]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Kung Fu Panda was a big hit in 2010. Good thing this balloon isn't as clumsy as the real thing.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Macy's selling Pillsbury in 2010, the age of corporate synergy is complete.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

And here are the Smurf's promoting their movie in 2010.

[Image via Getty]

A Visual History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons

Whose apartment is this? Is it up for rent? I'm interested!

[Image via Getty]