Did you know Christmas is just over 12 weeks away?

Crazy, right? But despite all the festivity starting to creep in to shops, it doesn't truly feel like Christmastime to me until I've attended a Santa parade.

When I was a child growing up in Whakatāne, Santa parades were one of the highlights of my year.

Thousands of people would line the streets to watch the huge floats drive past, many of which had been weeks in the decorating.


Christmas carols would be blaring from the passing vehicles, which were interspersed with marching teams, pipe bands, gymnasts doing stunts, fairytale characters handing out lollies to children, clowns jokingly wetting the crowd with water balloons and water pistols, and emergency vehicles with sirens on full tilt.

It was a festive assault on the senses - a slow-moving mass of colour, noise and Christmas spirit.

For many years, I was part of the Whakatāne Rock'n'Roll float with my grandparents.

The club members would get all dolled up in their petticoats and dance shoes, hook a jukebox up on the back of a curtain-sider truck decorated with tinsel, and execute some flashy moves while the truck plodded its way to town.

Us children on the back would smile and wave, throwing Mackintoshes, Minties and Fruit Bursts to the crowds.

I'm sure I'm far from alone in my nostalgia for how parades once were.

But businesses have caught on that having their branding on display to thousands of people is a savvy move, professing their support for their communities while getting great exposure.

Floats cheerfully hand-decorated by clubs and organisations are being slowly replaced by sign written cars covered strategically with tinsel so as not to obscure the logos on the side.

They'll still be a buzz for the littlies, but for the cynics like myself, it's just another instance where commercialisation has overtaken wholesome fun.

It makes me think the decision to move to biennial parades in Pāpāmoa could bring back their community feel.

The decreased frequency may make taking part less of a financial burden for small community groups and encourage them to get more involved.

Having parades return to their grassroots will be more enjoyable for everyone.