New gigantic balloons on Thursday were added to the popular Thanksgiving Day parade that, along with colorful floats, bands and musical performances, officially welcomed the Christmas season to the streets of New York City.

Millions of New Yorkers and people from around the country didn't want to miss the 86th edition of the parade organized by Macy's department store which for Americans has become - along with the traditional turkey dinner - an indispensable element in the celebration of the special day.

Starting early in the morning, people began filling the streets to get a good spot from which to enjoy the event, and some even reserved hotel rooms overlooking the parade route to be able to secure a bird's-eye view.

Others preferred to enjoy the parade from the comfort of their homes and every year some 50 million people watch the live television broadcast of the event, although this year people also had the chance to follow the parade via their cell phones.

The Christmas atmosphere permeated the streets of Manhattan with the passage of the gigantic balloons depicting Santa Claus, candies and toys that astounded the onlooking children.

In addition, this year new children's characters were added to the parade, including Hello Kitty and Papa Smurf, who joined the classic balloons depicting Sponge Bob, Spiderman and Mickey Mouse.

The most important celebration for Americans did not forget the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the city on Oct. 29, and 5,000 local residents affected by the storm enjoyed the popular parade from specially arranged front-row positions. EFE