In my house, Thanksgiving had its own ritual.

My mom worked for Macy’s for many years and I was lucky enough to attend and participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When I was too young to participate my mom would get tickets to go watch my brother and cousins in the parade.

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Getting to be on the sidelines of the parade at a young age was a blast. I remember one year a cheerleader stopped and gave me her pom-poms, I still have them to this day. For many families, going to see the parade is like going to Times Square on New Year's Eve. The energy and excitement created by the parade and its volunteers are contagious and the city is alive.

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The alarm would go off at 3 in the morning and we would crawl out of bed, into my mom's car when it was still pitch black outside.

When I turned 7 I was finally old enough to be in the parade, and I participated every year after that until I was 14. I was lucky enough to bring a friend or family member to be in the parade with me. Apart from performing talent and marching bands, all other volunteers in the parade are Macy's employees and their family and friends.

Leading up to the parade I would be talking about it at school and everyone would be super excited and promise to look for me on TV.

The night before the parade you would find me up in my room putting on every pair of long johns I own before I jumped into bed. I went to bed knowing I had to get a lot of rest because I knew I would be participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade the next morning.

The alarm would go off at 3 in the morning and we would crawl out of bed, into my mom's car when it was still pitch black outside.

My mom would start driving and I would try to get as much sleep as I could on the car ride. All of a sudden I would wake up in NYC at about 4 or 5 in the morning. We would get out of the car and start heading over to the Macy's loading dock. The streets are barricaded and there are many police officers as well as people lining up to catch a glimpse of the parade.

Clowns, balloon handlers, and other parade participants leave their homes as early as 2 in the morning to participate.

Adults that march in the parade and balloon handlers go to a hotel the day of the parade. Macy's usually takes over the ballroom of a hotel for adults to get their costumes and get ready. They then provide a bus that takes the adults to the start of the parade route.

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The parade goes on rain or shine so regardless of your costume, you better be prepared to stay warm.

The kids who participate in the parade head to the Macy's loading dock. Once at the loading dock you anxiously wait to take the freight elevators. The excitement starts to build as you wait to go upstairs and see what your costume will look like, and what float you will be on.

You get checked in, your parents leave and you get turned over to a float captain who is in charge of you for the next few hours. You follow them into this giant room. Everywhere you look you’ll see ballet racks filled with costumes. Every float was assigned a section with different costumes to fit the theme. According to Macy's, their team designs and maintains 4,200 costumes.

The float captain and a few adults assigned to each float get you ready and dressed into your costume. After you're all dressed, you wait and double-check that you have on all your layers and that you’re stocked with hand warmers. The parade goes on rain or shine so regardless of your costume, you better be prepared to stay warm. I remember one year I was on a princess float and we had short sleeve dresses. The adults on our float kept checking to make sure our lips weren’t turning blue.

Once it gets closer to the parade start time, we head back down to the loading dock where there are charter buses waiting to drive us to the start of the parade route.

When you get on the bus, the excitement starts to build, you see all the different costumes. The clowns are goofing around, you hear the bands practicing and we look pretty crazy walking through the streets. Yet everyone knows exactly where we’re headed and they all begin to wave and cheer. You can literally feel the magical energy in the air.

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You can literally feel the magical energy in the air.

Once on the float, you were given a bag of confetti that you are supposed to try to make last throughout the two-and-a-half-mile-long parade. You would throw the confetti off the float and smile and wave at all the people in the stands. Macy's uses 200 pounds of confetti during the parade.

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Sometimes if you were lucky enough, you may have had a celebrity guest on your float. I had the band Boys Like Girls on my float and I got one of the drummer's drumsticks. My brother and my two cousins all were on the Hess float with Ruben Studdard from American Idol and they all got to get a signed CD by him.

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It is one of the most magical and unbeatable experiences.

Once you turn 13 years old, you can no longer be on a float and it's time to start walking and become a clown. The adult clowns attend Clown University. Clown University is a day-long training program where Macy's Parade clowns get to learn from Big Apple Circus clowns.

I got the opportunity to be a clown two times. It is so much fun to get to walk the parade rather than being on a float. You are able to walk right up to the barricades and get the crowd excited. You have the ability to make the experience even more special for those watching by interacting with them. It is one of the most magical and unbeatable experiences. Usually, you're so busy having fun you don't even realize how cold you are, or how quickly the time goes by.

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I don't participate in the parade anymore, but I still get up and watch it every year. I love the tradition of sitting around the television and looking for the new balloons and floats that get added each year.

The 95th annual Macy’s Parade will feature 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, more than 800 clowns, 10 marching bands and nine performance groups, a host of musical stars, and the one-and-only Santa Claus.

Read more about this year's parade here.

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