By Carrie Rollwagen
September 14, 2017
Craig Blankenhorn/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Most people plan their Thanksgiving around the afternoon meal, but my favorite part of the holiday with my family happens in the morning when we watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Before the parade starts, we do some meal prep for later in the day. Then we have a very informal viewing of the parade itself—we turn the TV on, lay a puzzle out on the coffee table, and put out some light breakfast foods. We also make a drink called Poinsettia—it's like a mimosa, but it uses cranberry juice instead of orange juice. The cranberry color makes it seem more festive and fun.

I loved watching the parade when I was a kid (I got a little obsessed after a very influential viewing of Miracle on 34th Street, which features the parade), but now I don't watch quite as intently—and that's kind of the point. Our family watches some of the parade, but we also chat with each other, comment on the performances and the bands and the balloons, and we take breaks every now and then to check on the turkey or Skype with family who aren't able to be with us. My dad always pretends to be annoyed that we're forcing him to watch, and my sister always tries to convince my mom to sneak her early crescent rolls. Even on years when it's still warm in the South in November, it feels cozy to watch the commentators and performers all bundled up in their winter coats and scarves.

Watching the parade and putting together a puzzle brings us all together at the beginning of the day before anyone gets stressed out about the turkey or has to get dressed up or set the table or worry about whether or not we'll be able to find room in the oven for all the sides. The conversation is refreshingly light, all about which pop stars we don't recognize or whose lip syncing isn't working out, and we're usually able to catch up on everyone's lives before we gather around the formal Thanksgiving table.

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Later in the day, we'll eat a meal that's been carefully planned. We'll admire the centerpiece, compliment the cooks, and we'll formally discuss what we're thankful for. I like all of that, too. But there's something magical about curling up in the living room in our pajamas to enjoy a little song and dance and watch oversized balloons floating down the streets of New York City. My Thanksgiving doesn't feel complete without that tradition, either.