The Biggest Parades Across the World

Parades are held for numerous reasons. Some to celebrate diversity in a new culture and others inspired by tales of legend.

Stories of struggle and success are passed down from generation to generation. They are depicted in various forms of dances, songs, garments, decorations, and more! Some parades were created because of employment, and some provided employment. Here you will find a list of some of the biggest and most noteworthy parades celebrated across the world!


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (America)


The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade runs through the city of New York in November during Thanksgiving weekend.

The parade features a variety of performers, including musicians, marching bands, the cast of Broadway shows, huge floating balloons, massive floats, etc. It begins on thanksgiving morning in Central Park, and closes in front of Macy’s Herald Square – its flagship department store.

The event was first organized by Macy’s chain retail store in the 1920s. This was a request by employees to conduct a Christmas parade celebration to display their respective cultures. The parade’s initial lineup would consist of Macy’s employees dressed up in various outfits, accompanied by jazz musicians. It also had animals such as elephants, donkeys, and camels marching alongside, and would conclude with a Santa Claus at its end.

It was later moved to the thanksgiving holiday, and introduced gigantic balloons of popular characters in the mix. These balloons were released at the end of the parade. Macy’s stitched their mailing address on these balloons and would present gifts to those who returned them to the store. The balloons would be of popular characters in sync with the times, such as Frieda the Dachshund, Snoopy, Clifford -the big red dog, Goofy, Ronald McDonald, Pinocchio, etc.

The parade has had a list of performers, including Dolly Parton, Tony Benett, Carrie Underwood, Goo Goo Dolls, and The Rockettes – a dance company known for several genres of dancing, mainly ballet and tap. They have performed annually at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 1958.

Click here to see the coverage of the float in the Evening Star newspaper on November 27, 1959.


Krampuslauf (Austria)


In the Bavarian region, a parade brings to life a Christmas devil known as ‘Krampus’, a creature said to be a half-goat and half-demon, with dark hair, horns, and fangs. The story goes that during Christmas time, this beast drags mischievous children down to the underworld. It is seen as the rival to the story of Santa Claus. The parade is held on annually on 5th December, the eve of the feast of Saint Nicolas.

This dark fantasy parade is held in the city of Graz in Austria. The Krampuses are played by the locals. Heavy outfits donned by the Krampuses are made from sheep’s wool, and the face masks and headgear are carved by hand. The procession starts in the evening and goes on till late at night. Carrying cowbells, sticks, and torches, they also perform fire tricks while in procession.

You will also find people dressed as Saint Nicolas, angels, and other religious figures warding off the evil and ‘saving’ the children from Krampus in the parade. Local delicacies like stollen (spiced cake bread,) vanillekipferl (walnut cookies), kiachln (sweet doughnuts) are on offer along with ‘Krampus schnapps’ (a fruit brandy).

The word Krampus derives from the old Germanic word “Krampen”, which in English means ‘claw’.

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Esala Perahera (Sri Lanka)


The ‘Esala Perahera’ takes place in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in July or August to honor the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. According to legend, a canine tooth was taken from the Buddha’s funeral pyre and quite a journey landed in Sri Lanka. It is said that Princess Hemamali hid the relic in her hair ornament when she fled India to go to Sri Lanka. The festival is said to be one of the country’s oldest and largest.

The procession begins late in the evening, with its participants all dressed in traditional attire and jewelry. It possesses street performers, jugglers, drummers, dancers, fire acts, musicians, and elaborately decorated elephants. This procession takes place around the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. ‘Esala’ is the name of a lunar month on the Sinhalese calendar and the word ‘Perahera‘ is a term that means ‘parade’ or ‘procession’.

Check out this feature of this festival when Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon from The Waterbury Democrat October 11, 1935, by clicking here. It mentions an assembly of hundreds of decorated elephants and thousands of people in attendance at Kandy.


Carnaval de Québec (Canada)


Covered in snow, this annual pre-Lenten parade has been held since the year 1955 and is mentioned by the Evening Star newspaper as “Quebec’s answer to Mardi Gras’. The two-week-long celebration concludes with a colorful parade celebrating French-Canadian culture. Since its beginning, the Carnaval de Québec has had its own official mascot, called ‘Bonhomme’.

During its festivities, activities are held in multiple locations in the city. Food and beverages are plenty, though the highlight of the event is their open ice bars, which serve drinks in ice glasses and maple taffy that is prepared by pouring hot maple syrup over snow, rolled up with a candy stick. There are also live band performances and a mélange of folk dances from multiple traditions.

Along with snow baths, there are ice snow slides, ax throwing events, wrestling, ice hockey, sleigh rides, and skating on display. Artists host workshops while exhibiting their snow and ice sculptures throughout the day. Ice canoe races are also held on the St. Lawrence river seeing contestants row across the freezing water. The parade takes place at the end of the festival with decorated floats, drummers, participants cosplaying characters, musicians, dancers, and the mascot leading the procession.

Check out the Carnaval de Québec official website here.


 Cape Town Carnival (South Africa)


A fairly new fiesta having its first edition in 2010 is The Cape Town Carnival. It is held annually in March. Cape Town Carnival celebrates its African heritage while also bringing together beautiful and diverse cultures in the city. Yearly, the event organizers determine a specific theme with a powerful message. The recent ones in 2019 being, ‘VUKA UKHANYE: Arise and Shine!’ and “Mother City, Mother Nature” in 2018.

At this extravaganza, there are over 2000 different performers, who present various forms of art and dance. The streets are lively during this time with local businesses, restaurants, and galleries. The parade kicks off in the evening on the Green Point fan walk with performers and colorful floats resembling the theme of the year. The street bear witness to lots of traditional live music, vibrant and decorated costumes, and cultural dances.

As mentioned on their website, this year will have its celebration across five locations with five different shows. Each will exhibit lively performances of music, song, dance, and art. The carnival is set to go ahead in March 2022 with the theme being “Reunited” after a two-year hiatus from the pandemic.


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Feature Image Via Long Island Press, Pinterest, Reise Lanka, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and Rove.

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