KSNF/KODE — For many communities across the United States, a true celebration includes a town parade. Whether for the winter holidays, Memorial Day, or 4th of July, it seems like almost any occasion is cause for a downtown march. Parades have given communities a chance to come together in celebration, whether it be for a national holiday or a smaller-town affair.

Some of the most memorable tales from parades of Christmas past, including how Christmas parades have evolved into what most look like today, are combined into a publication called “Forward, March: America’s Holiday Parades.” For a summary of U.S. holiday parades, Arcadia Publishing picked out some of the best Christmas parade material from a collection of books, such as “Tulsa Christmas Parade” and “Chicago’s State Street Christmas Parade.” Books like these, as well as many others published by Arcadia, highlight Christmas parades across the U.S. Here’s a look into their publication, “Forward, March: America’s Holiday Parades:”

The Traditional Christmas Parade

Santa Claus parades, also called Christmas parades, are parades held in some countries to celebrate the official opening of the Christmas season with the arrival of Santa Claus who always appears in the last float. The parades usually include themed floats, dancing or marching groups, and bands playing Christmas songs.

The Joplin High School band marches down Main Street during the annual Joplin, Missouri Christmas Parade.

While smaller community parades are not uncommon, many American towns have used the holiday season as a cause for celebration. These parades are unique to their town and often feature community traditions. In Larchmont, California, a group of young schoolgirls plays the role of Santa and his reindeer.

For some towns, a parade is considered the main event of festivities rather than just the start. In Cedar Rapids, the holiday season hadn’t truly arrived until the annual holiday parade, which started in 1983. The parade is preceded by a whole day of winter-related activities across the city before the big event in late November or early December.

In larger cities, parades have been known to command large crowds and feature elaborate floats. Many of these large parades have their roots in a smaller community celebrations but have grown over time. The State Street Holiday Parade in Chicago is one of these larger parades and has been conducted yearly for nearly a century.

The Unofficial Start To The “Holiday Parade Season”

While some holiday parades are held throughout December, many towns begin their holiday celebrations with a parade on Thanksgiving Day. These Thanksgiving Day parades are often very elaborate, like the Thanksgiving parade in Detroit. Held since 1924, the Detroit Thanksgiving parade features several marching bands.

Perhaps the most well-known holiday parade is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is nationally televised annually. The parade is known for its unique balloons, often as large as the buildings they float past.

A Christmas Time Staple In Cities Across America

Some parades are so highly anticipated that they’ll be advertised far in advance. The Granada Hills Holiday Parade has been organized annually since 1984 but previously existed as the “Youth in Action” parade.

Aside from the standard marching bands and floats, some towns have gone the extra mile to bring unique entertainment into their parades. During the Royal Oak, Michigan, holiday parade, unicyclists fill the streets and perform tricks for onlookers. The town is known for its holiday parade in the fall and its Memorial Day parade during late spring.

Above all, parades have brought a sense of community to towns, letting neighbors and strangers alike come together for a celebration. Whether for the holidays or just for fun, a parade is a sure way to keep a town’s spirits high.

You’ll find more information on America’s holiday parades, including photos from holiday parades gone by, HERE.