How to survive a Santa parade
On Sunday 26th November mother of three, Pippa Henderson, braved the Farmers Santa Parade in Auckland city centre, alone. Well, she wasn’t actually alone – the parade attracts over 250,000 people and 4,000 participants – but her introverted husband politely (yet firmly) refused to join her and their four-year-old amongst ‘the throngs of humanity’, while they watched and waited for his sister, a performer, to go by. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Santa Parades involve intense stimulation of every sense. There’s a lot of fun to be had, and special memories to be made, but the experience is not for the faint hearted. Here are Pippa’s tips to ensure you survive.
- Pack plenty of food and drink. I really do mean plenty, as the demand on everyone’s energy is high, and so are the prices if you find yourself needing emergency top ups. My food supply fell embarrassingly short, and I paid for it time and time again. Pack nutritious snacks, to be sure, but also stock up on treats, so you don’t have to dash into the centre of the road and risk being run over by a float to secure that last remaining lolly for your child.
- Pack plenty of sunscreen and sunhats. You’ll likely be out there at the height of the day, and the sun seems merciless when you’re standing around.
- Be sure your drink bottles don’t leak, and the sunscreen lid is screwed on. I’m talking from personal experience here. The contents of my bag were covered in white slime, and despite the cloudless sky the backs of my lets were rained upon all day long.
- Set your budget. If there is a fair or rides accompanying your Santa parade, decide before hand how much you’re willing to spend, and explain the limits to your child before hand, if they’re old enough to understand. It’s good for them to understand that if they go on one really expensive thing, they won’t be able to do the other things as well. Kids love taking responsibility for their own choices, and when they’ve known the budget from the start they’re less likely to have a melt down and publicly beg for one more ride.
- Plan your entry, and your escape route. Don’t forget that at big events like these there are often road closures, and a complete lack of car parks. If you do manage to get your car within a kilometre radius of the event, will you be able to get out again at the end? Keep this in mind if you’ve got any other appointments scheduled, or if the age of your children or any health conditions may prevent you from doing the walking required. Public transport may well be the best option.
- Pick your observational spot, and hold. Ideally you want both shade and elevation, as it’s hard work continually picking up your child so they don’t miss out on the spectacles. Once you’ve secured your spot, hold.
- Plan your toilet stops, and hold. I understand that holding is almost impossible with small children but the reality at large public events is that every public toilet has a long and snaking queue. Give a little forethought to this situation so you don’t find yourself in an emergency (like I did with my four-year-old).
- Cushion that bottom. Bring an old cushion or a blanket, (or even better, deck chairs) to prevent knees and bottoms being directly exposed to hot tar seal and gravel.
- Be present in the moment. I was amazed to see how busy people were photographing and videoing the parade, watching it all go by on their screens, instead of with their own two eyes. How many times are you really going to go back to last years Santa parade photos to reminisce over that float. Trust your memory to hold on to the best stuff, and just be there in the moment with your child as they marvel at all the displays.
- Focus on the happy memories, not the horrors. Christmas (even in late November) does strange things to people. I saw things I would have rather not have seen – ill-fitting costumes, ill-advised lycra asked to stretch too far, clashing colours, forced merriment – but I choose not to dwell on these. In amongst it all was a school of middle-age jellyfish. I have no idea who these women represented, or what jellyfish have to do with Christmas, but they were simply stunning in their flowing blue and teal tule costumes, and they mesmerised me with their enthusiasm. There was something about the way their tentacles flailed out behind them that assured me our community spirit is alive and well, and I was proud to be there celebrating. As for my four-year-old, he was understandably more taken by the Star Wars characters, and how close he came to touching them. And he was totally in awe of the inflatable Madagascar penguins. This whole hot sweaty mess of a day was all worth it just to see his face as he tried to process the sight of these four cheeky penguins, as tall as buildings, happily bobbing down Queen Street.