Culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, and practices that characterize a group. Some of these shared practices include religious beliefs, family traditions and holiday celebrations. While many arguments can be made as to why Harrisburg held a Holiday Parade today, the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, the city is missing the mark by failing to observe the holidays on their respective calendar dates.
With a theme of “Traditions from around the World,” the parade marked the beginning of the holiday season, including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. While the idea of inclusion is noble, a celebration dedicated to all is really a celebration of none.
Metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia and New York City have annual traditions that commemorate the holidays on the actual day. Philadelphians look forward to the Mummers Parade happening every year on Thanksgiving Day while New Yorkers have grown accustomed to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Of the latter, tradition lies is in the title itself. Children grow up with a special place for Thanksgiving because there are festivities planned for the holiday. A “Thanksgiving Day” parade held the weekend prior to the holiday fails to leave the same impact.
Watch: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2009
Stamford, CT has a good excuse for holding an event prior to the holiday. The UBS Parade Spectacular takes place on the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year to avoid competing with Macy’s parade held only 30 miles away. Harrisburg has no such dilemma. As the Capital City, a parade held on Thanksgiving would be the crown jewel of the area, inviting residents from Carlisle, Hershey, and Mechanicsburg. Crippled by a struggling economy, the free event would give the city a needed revenue boost by drawing customers to all of the businesses and vendors located downtown.
Watch: Stamford’s 2009 Thanksgiving Ballon Spectacular
If the concern is about failing to recognize the other holidays, there are numerous opportunities to honor them. As it stands, once the Holiday Parade ends, the city does little to celebrate a holiday season that lasts until January 1. A city-wide concert held Christmas morning at The Forum sounds like a great idea and another way to stimulate business. Sandwiching that between a large-scale Thanksgiving Day parade and the annual New Year’s Eve festivities gives a more complete feeling to how Harrisburg handles this season.
Holidays have special significance because they only happen once per year. Harrisburg should pay tribute to this importance with more specific annual celebrations. If the area ever hopes to be mentioned with some of the major cities in the country, it must create a culture by building strong, timely traditions to honor the holidays.
Jamal A. Jones enjoys celebrating Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day. Follow him on Twitter: @jamalajones