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Santason parade: Boston’s old Thanksgiving tradition

Clowns led balloons down Beacon Street along the route of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939.
Clowns led balloons down Beacon Street along the route of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939. (Boston Globe Archive)

In the 1930s and ’40s, Boston had its own Thanksgiving Day parade, sponsored by the Jordan Marsh department store and named for the young son of Santa Claus. The event kicked off with Santason arriving from the North Pole in a hydroplane that landed on the Charles River, and included giant balloons, drum majors, trick bicycle acts, and jugglers. It routinely drew hundreds of thousands of spectators each Thanksgiving morning.

Santason boarded his amphibian plane, scheduled to land on the Charles River Basin in Boston on Thanksgiving morning, in Nov. 1937.
Santason boarded his amphibian plane, scheduled to land on the Charles River Basin in Boston on Thanksgiving morning, in Nov. 1937.(Boston Globe Archive)
The musical pig and rabbit balloons rolled along the route during the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939.
The musical pig and rabbit balloons rolled along the route during the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939. (Boston Globe Archive)
 A giant dragon balloon floated along the Santason parade route in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939.
A giant dragon balloon floated along the Santason parade route in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939. (Boston Globe Archive)
The sea dragon balloon is led down Beacon Street on the route of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 20, 1941.
The sea dragon balloon is led down Beacon Street on the route of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 20, 1941. (Boston Globe Archive)
A Mickey Mouse balloon traveled along the route of the Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1938.
A Mickey Mouse balloon traveled along the route of the Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1938. (Boston Globe Archive)
A long dragon balloon was carried during the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939.
A long dragon balloon was carried during the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939. (Boston Globe Archive)
The train balloon was led along Beacon Street on the route of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 20, 1941.
The train balloon was led along Beacon Street on the route of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 20, 1941. (Boston Globe Archive)
A balloon entitled "Ferdinand the Bull" floated along Beacon Street on the route of Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1938.
A balloon entitled "Ferdinand the Bull" floated along Beacon Street on the route of Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1938. (Boston Globe Archive)
Acrobat balloons floated past the Massachusetts State House during the Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 20, 1941.
Acrobat balloons floated past the Massachusetts State House during the Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 20, 1941.(Boston Globe Archive)
The two-headed pirate balloon traveled along the route during the Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1937.
The two-headed pirate balloon traveled along the route during the Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1937. (Boston Globe Archive)
Balloons spelling out "Merry Xmas" were carried along the Santason parade route in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939.
Balloons spelling out "Merry Xmas" were carried along the Santason parade route in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 30, 1939.(Boston Globe Archive)
The crowd on Beacon Street in Boston after the Thanksgiving Santason Parade ended, Nov. 30, 1939.
The crowd on Beacon Street in Boston after the Thanksgiving Santason Parade ended, Nov. 30, 1939. (Boston Globe Archive)
Santa Claus and Santason handed out presents to Robert and Barbara Ochs, Vincent Micale, and Grace Falmio at the Union Boat Club landing on the Charles River as part of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1940.
Santa Claus and Santason handed out presents to Robert and Barbara Ochs, Vincent Micale, and Grace Falmio at the Union Boat Club landing on the Charles River as part of the annual Santason parade in Boston on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1940. (Boston Globe Archive)