Parading toward Christmas in Haldimand-Norfolk

By MPP Toby Barrett
By the time this column goes to print, Santa and his nine tiny reindeer will have left the local parade circuit for the North Pole. Given the jam-packed schedule of float-filled events and photo-ops across our two counties the jolly red-elf will have his work cut out for him readying for his evening of round-the-world gift delivery.
I know, for my part, it was difficult enough to answer the call of parade marshals’ from Delhi to Dunnville, and many stops in between – imagine the hurdles faced by Santa’s scheduler to ensure the giant red sleigh and St. Nick provide the finale to parades around the world. How does he do it?!
And to think, before a few people got the idea to invite Mr. Claus down to Toronto for the run-up to Christmas in 1905, all he had to worry about was getting toys to all girls and boys. It was December 2nd, 1905 that Santa arrived by train and met Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Eaton, and then walked to the Eaton’s Downtown store. The first float was introduced in 1908 – a truck with a band to accompany Santa. The oldest annual Santa Claus parade in the world now has over 25 floats, 24 bands, 1,700 participants, and is almost three-and-a-half miles long. It is one of the biggest productions in North America.
Today’s parades in Toronto, and those we enjoy in our area, are felt to be descendants of late Medieval and Renaissance replications of Roman Triumphs. Triumphs served as celebratory events full of music, banners, and wagons, culminating with the leader riding in a horse-drawn chariot – no word if the leader later brought his chariot door to door with goodies for the kids.
And when you think of the many parades criss-crossing our area – although there have been some tweaks to the foundation laid by the Romans – not much has really changed. Of course, the addition of a Coast Guard boat and a fish tug – as per the tradition in Port Dover is one of a few area modifications the Romans may not have contemplated.
We are blessed with at least six opportunities to watch roadside as Santa et al roll down the streets of area towns. This year, November 19th was Kris Kringle’s first trip to the area for the Dover celebration, followed by parades in Caledonia, Cayuga, Delhi, Dunnville, Langton and finishing in Hagersville this past Friday night.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the original “bright” idea of organizers for Simcoe’s annual Santa Claus Parade. After a soggy parade in the late 1950’s. The forefathers of what we now know as the Simcoe Christmas Panorama, dressed three new exhibits and the existing parade floats with lights and placed them in the park for all to enjoy. Nowadays visitors to Simcoe’s downtown parks can take in over 60 displays – plus hot drinks and holiday tunes.
While all of us experience the stress and often overwhelming feelings of the holiday season, we must take time to remember the “reason for the season”. Picture for a moment the way a child’s eyes light up when they catch a glimpse of Santa or hear the famous “HO, HO, HO”.
Whether it be our many Christmas Parades or Light up Festivals the message remains the same:
Happy holidays and a Very Merry Christmas!