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Was that the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in Christmas Vacation?

Everyone knows National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Everyone who reads this blog knows it's my favorite Christmas movie of all time.  But did you know there is a bit of an online controversy surrounding a short 5 second scene halfway through the film?

About mid way through the movie there is a scene where the Grandmothers are watching a parade and decorating a gingerbread house while the Grandfathers take a nap in the living room.  The argument online is whether they are watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or not.

So today, I thought I'd settle the score once and for all.
Watch the scene below.  If it doesn't start at the right moment, it begins at 23:40 of this video... which you can watch the entirety of in the YRM Playhouse!

One of my key arguments against the depicted parade NOT being the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is that the movie never shows Thanksgiving Dinner.  One would think if the Grandparents arrived early enough for Christmas that they were in Chicago at Clark and Ellen's home for Thanksgiving that the crazy family fun of Thanksgiving Dinner would be shown.

But, ok, I can understand maybe it was cut for time.  Let's look deeper.

Throughout the film an Advent Calendar is shown being opened by a child's hand.  I'd always assumed it was Rusty Griswold, but, I don't think anyone has ever said.

Just minutes prior to the scene in question, the Advent Calendar is opened again.  The date that was opened?  December 14th.

If it truly was December 14th, there is no way it could possibly be the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Or could it?  Perhaps they were watching a rerun or the editing was a bit sloppy or this was just a throw away segment and the continuity experts weren't as important back in the 80's as they are today.

So let's take one step deeper into the scene.

As Clark's Mom puts icing on the gingerbread house (and waves away the smoke from Doris Roberts' cigarette) the announcer on television mentions the windows at the Marshall Field's Department Store.  Marshall Field's did not have a New York City location.  Marshall Field's IS famous, however, for having a gigantic Christmas window display every year... in Chicago.

I can pretty conclusively say that it is NOT the New York City Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

So, what was it?

While I admit the timing (December 14th) would be all off, when the movie debuted in 1989 the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, known as The Marshall Field's Jingle Elf Parade, would have been the major event that makes it most likely the parade shown on the Griswold's living room television

The IMDB trivia section of the sort of spoils this.  The actual footage is from "America's Thanksgiving Day Parade" which is an annual event in downtown Detroit, Michigan... the hometown of writer/producer John Hughes.

My conclusion?  Since the Griswolds are residents of suburban Chicago, the two Grandmothers may have been watching the footage of the Detroit "America's Thanksgiving Day Parade" the intent was that they were watching a replay of the Chicago Marshall Field's Jingle Elf Parade.

What do you think?


  1. As a professional Santa I can tell you that I think the Santa in that parade is Father Joseph Marquis who is a Greek Orthodox Priest from Livonia, Michigan. So, your speculation that the parade in that short scene is Detroit's Christmas has some merit.

  2. Thank you, Santa! That's great insight!

  3. Agree. This is a very insightful post regarding a scene that drives me nuts. Santa don, you made this scene special for me knowing the history and prevalence of dear Father Marquis