'The Hollywood Christmas Parade Greatest Moments' – More than 90 years of highlights
It may not get the fanfare of the Tournament of Roses or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades, but the Hollywood Christmas Parade has a history as long and as storied as its more famous brethren.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about the cancellation of this year’s march down Hollywood Boulevard. Still, viewers can get their fix Friday, Dec. 4, when The CW airs “The Hollywood Christmas Parade Greatest Moments,” a retrospective of highlights from more than 90 years of the Southern California institution.
It started in 1928 as an effort by Hollywood Boulevard merchants to boost shopping. Dubbed the Santa Claus Lane Parade, it consisted of only a few floats, film actress Jeanette Loff and — of course — Santa himself, riding in a one-reindeer-drawn sleigh. The parade’s popularity grew throughout the 1930s with more celebrities, marching bands, equestrian teams and other performers, among them film stars Bette Davis, Mary Pickford and Leo Carillo.
World War II brought that to a temporary halt with the parade’s suspension from 1942 to 1944, but it returned to record attendance in 1945. Grand Marshal Gene Autry is said to have drawn inspiration from children’s joyful cries along the 1946 parade’s route to write the holiday standard “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Bob Hope, Jack Benny, George Burns, Gracie Allen and Rudy Vallee also appeared.
The ’50s, ’60s and ’70s brought more celebrities, marching bands, floats, animals and, of course, crowds that numbered more than 500,000. In 1978, it was renamed the Hollywood Christmas Parade to attract more stars. Such Hollywood icons as Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood took part.
For much of its run, the parade was broadcast locally on Los Angeles station KTLA, but a nationally televised NBC special in 2004 flopped, and various issues with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce led to the event’s cancellation three years later. After much public outcry, the City and County of Los Angeles reinstated it. Since 2015, it has aired on The CW.
Today, the parade is bigger and more popular than ever, with live musical performances and giant character balloons added to its mix of bands, equestrian teams and celebrities offering holiday greetings from cars.