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Santa Parades - Past and Present

A revamped history on Ministry for Culture and Heritage website tells the story of New Zealand’s unique Christmas parade tradition.

“Modern Santa Parades are often accused of being too commercial but they are no more so than those of the past. Advertising has always been part of Santa Parades, but it became more overt in the early 1990s as individual department stores could no longer afford to be the sole sponsors of these events,” said Ministry for Culture and Heritage historian Imelda Bargas.

“Santa Parades began in the main centres in the early 1900s. They were established by department stores to promote the arrival of in-store Santas, with the clear aim of drawing customers directly into their stores. They grew in size and scale over the next few decades – apart from a brief hiatus during the Second World War”.

The 1950s, 60s and 70s were a period of relative stability for Santa parades. Particular department stores came to dominate those held in the main centres – Farmers in Auckland, James Smith’s in Wellington and Hay’s in Christchurch.

“But by the late 1980s the parades were becoming too expensive for individual department stores to run. Between 1989 and 1991 the longstanding parades in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were taken over by charitable trusts. The parades have become more overtly commercial as the trusts sell off the naming rights to both the entire parade and individual floats and characters. At the same time the parades have become more representative of New Zealand society with a broad range of community and voluntary groups participating alongside local businesses and traditional floats”.

There are plenty more Santa stories in’s Kiwi Christmas feature. Did you know that Auckland’s giant Santa is estimated to have cost almost half a million dollars to maintain since his inception? And just how did his longterm rival in Christchurch end up in Levin?

The story is available at the following link:

Updated on 23rd July 2015