Parades are such fun. They are a spectacle of artistry, they are a collection of talented performers, they are a celebration of a season. In Toronto we celebrate parades for Easter (and yes we wear bonnets!), Saint Patrick’s Day, and the ultimate of holidays – Christmas. But Toronto isn’t the only place that has impressive celebratory parades to show off the spirit and creativity of the city. I asked my friends in the travel world to share Christmas parades that take place across the globe. Hopefully you can witness one or all of them in your lifetime.

Santa Claus Parade, Toronto – Fill My Passport

To top the list of festive parades is Toronto’s Santa Claus parade. Usually scheduled for the third Sunday in November, Santa comes to town in a colourful and cheery spectacle complete with marching bands, floats, florals, acrobats, and of course his sleigh decked out with bells and reindeer. It is over 100 years old, attracts thousands, and does have hot chocolate along the parade route. Hotels do come through with Santa Claus Parade packages that include exceptional views, Christmas treats and the warmth of an indoor vantage point. They aren’t cheap, but definitely a bucket list tick in your travel experiences.

Santa Claus Parade Toronto
Santa Claus Parade Toronto
Credit: Vie Vie

 

Santa Claus Parade Toronto
Santa Claus Parade Toronto
Credit: Vie Vie

 

 

Santa Claus Parade Toronto
Santa Claus Parade Toronto
Credit: Vie Vie

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

by: Kelly of Girl with the Passport, Instagram

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a true American tradition that has come to symbolize the beginning of the holiday season. I mean, I remember being glued to the television as a child, just waiting for Santa to roll through Herald Square and kick off a truly magical time of year in New York City. Somehow, I always felt like Santa was really there, somehow reminding me of what the holiday season is really about.

Macy's parade
Macy’s parade

But there is nothing quite like seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person. You feel an air of excitement, you see the enormous balloons soaring through the air, you hear the crowd cheering and you feel an overwhelming sense of joy that somehow connects complete and total strangers. Sure you have to get up insanely early to find a spot along the parade route, and yes the city is insanely crowded, but it is something that I believe everyone should see and feel at least once in their life. Plus, it gets you out of cooking! And if you have unlimited funds, you can escape the crowds by renting a room that overlooks the parade route.

Thanksgiving Parade, New York City
Thanksgiving Parade, New York City

Or if you are not a morning person, you can head out the night before to watch the parade balloons being blown up. Not only is it less crowded, but it’s a lot less stressful.

To check out these super cool balloons, head over to 77th street and 81st street, where the balloons can be viewed between Central Park west and Columbus Avenue, between 3 pm and 10 pm, the night before Thanksgiving.

 

Walkerburn Scotland Parade

Written by Natasha Haley of Meldrums on the Move

Walkerburn is a very small town in Southern Scotland. Walkerburn does not let its size stop it celebrating Christmas to the extreme, however. Every December someone from the Village volunteers to be Santa for the year and either walks or uses a drawn sleigh to visit each street of the town one by one, waving to the children, sometimes passing out gift and spreading a wonderful Christmas cheer around the village. Children and parents can venture outdoors into the snow and wave to Santa on his way past, or they can watch form inside from the warmth of their cost sitting rooms. Santa will also visit younger children at the Walkerbun Village School to hand out gifts. Not to worry if you forget which day Santa is coming to town, Santa or one of his helpers will quickly knock your door on their way past to make sure no one is going to miss out on a Santa wave, cuddle or gift. It is a very special experience for younger children, and a very special parade for such a small town.

Walkerburn, Scotland
Walkerburn, Scotland
Credit: Meldrums on the Move

Santa Claus Parade – Wellington New Zealand

by: Rachel of Rachel on Route, Facebook

I haven’t seen many Santa Claus Parades – they’re not very big here in the UK. But back in 2015 I moved to New Zealand for a year on working Holiday visa and spent Christmas in Wellington.
As New Zealand is in the Southern hemisphere the seasons are the opposite way round to the way I’m used too. So I found it all quite bizarre! I was job hunting at the time. One day I’d spent the morning in the library, and when I’d finished I stepped outside the building into the gorgeous afternoon sunshine (December averages around 16°C/60°F) and walked right into a Santa Claus parade going down the street outside. I’ve never seen anything like it. Everyone in the parade was dressed up in Christmas themed things – snow, ice, reindeer, wrapped in festive reds and greens, the usual things you would expect. While the crowds lining the streets were in shorts, hats, flip flops and sunglasses, enjoying a beautiful blued skied summer day. Very weird, but I loved the celebratory vibes. I’d love to see a really big wintry one now!
Santa Claus Parade Wellington New Zealand
Santa Claus Parade Wellington New Zealand
Credit: Rachel on Route

 

Santa Claus Parade Wellington New Zealand
Santa Claus Parade Wellington New Zealand
Credit: Rachel on Route

Santa Claus Parade, San Antonio Texas

by: Michelle of That Texas Couple, Twitter

Sure we’ve all seen Santa ride in on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, but have you seen Santa cruise in on a river boat?  If not, then you haven’t been to San Antonio, Texas during the Christmas.  Every year San Antonio hosts their annual River Parade and Lighting Ceremony to kick off the holiday season.  The Riverwalk is transformed as millions of lights are draped through the beautiful cypress trees to await their official lighting the night of the river parade.

San Antonio River Parade
San Antonio River Parade
Credit: That Texas Couple

Spectators line the bridges overlooking the Riverwalk hoping to get the best view from the “free seats”, while those willing to pay for a seat are allowed direct riverside access to the parade.   Suddenly you hear cheering and music and you know that the parade has begun.  One by one, the river barges, decked out in holiday lights and decorations, begin making their way down the river.  The river comes alive with music, singing, and dancing as the boats parade by.  Along with the boats, you notice that the entire river is now twinkling with millions of lights.  The Riverwalk has officially been lit for the holiday season.

Each float his it’s unique take on the theme for the year, but the crowd favorite is always the last float of the parade.  You guessed it, the float carrying Mr. and Mrs. Clause closes out the San Antonio Holiday River Parade.  Santa waves happily from his barge (decorated like a sleigh of course) as Mrs. Clause sits beside him grinning from ear to ear.  I guess she likes this unique way to ring in the holiday season as well!

Father Frost Parade- St. Petersburg, Russia

by: Campbell & Alya of Stingy Nomads

The main Russian New Year characters are Father Frost (Russian version of Santa Claus) and his granddaughter Snow Maiden their arrival to the city symbolizes the start of the holiday season. The most part of the year they live in their official residence the Father Frost House in Veliky Ustyug, a small town in the North East of Russia, 1000km from St. Petersburg. Every year Father Frost starts his journey from Veliky Ustyug to St. Petersburg and Moscow (where it finishes) visiting other cities on the way. In St. Petersburg the parade starts at the main city avenue Nevsky Prospect and finishes at the Palace Square. Father Frost drives in a sledge (decorated cart) pulled by white horses, accompanied by Christmas music. It gets very crowded on the streets you have to come beforehand to get a good spot. As an option you can watch the parade from one of the second-floor restaurant, coffee shops or a fancy hotel along the avenue. The main celebration takes place on the stage on the Palace Square from where Father Frost commands to turn on the lights on the main city Christmas tree. After the lights are on there is a concert that finishes with an amazing laser show. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip the crowd and watch the show from somewhere indoor the only one option, the Winter palace, is closed by that time. The parade usually takes place on weekend between 24th and 26th of December and starts the festive season that ends on 19th of January (the baptism of Christ).

New Year parade - St.Petersburg, Russia
New Year parade – St.Petersburg, Russia
Credit: Stingy Nomads

The Stollen Parade – Dresden, Germany

by Kaylie of Happiness Travels Here, Facebook

Dresden in Germany is best known for its Christmas markets, one of which is the oldest in Germany. While Santa, nutcrackers and snowmen decorate the city you won’t find them featured in the Christmas Parade.
The Parade is reserved for the giant Dresden Christmas Stollen, the bakers, and their fanfare. While Stollen, a type of Christmas cake is a popular treat throughout Germany, the buttery Dresden Stollen has an intriguing history which makes it all the more special.
The original Stollen was baked in 1427 from flour, yeast, water and oil. The preparation was supervised by the church council. In 1450 in an effort to make the bland cake more palatable application was made to the Pope to use richer ingredients and lift the so-called “butter prohibition”. It took the passing of 5 popes and 40 years before Dresden bakers were finally able to add butter and fruit to the cake, in exchange for a tax which went towards building churches.
Stollen Parade- Dresden Germany
Stollen Parade- Dresden Germany
Credit: Happiness Travels Here
It was then almost 300 years later that the Stollen received its next upgrade. A 1.8-tonne stollen was baked in 1730 for Augustus the Strong, the legendary and most notable ruler of Saxony. A grand celebration was had with more than 20000 guests feasting on the cake.
Since 1994 the Stollen parade has again become a regular occurrence. Held on the first or second Saturday in December the parade travels through the old town, finishing at the Streizelmarkt where the giant cake is cut up and sold. The proceeds going to charity.
Christmas Parades Around the World
Christmas Parades Around the World

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Disclaimers:

This post includes shared testimony on Christmas parades around the world. All views expressed by Fill My Passport and other bloggers are ours and not influenced in any way.

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