Christmas parades began in NZ about 1905, started by department stores promoting the arrival of Santa for shoppers to visit in their stores. George and Kersley Ltd’s Wellington store ‘Economic’ advertised probably the first ‘Santa’ parade, with children welcome to see ‘Mother and Father Christmas’ arriving at the railway station.
In 1906 the George & Kersley Father and Mother Christmas also dropped into Hutt Valley and Petone on the way to the Lambton Quay store.Father (and sometimes Mother) Christmas or Santa featured at department stores to attract shoppers . ‘Mother Christmas’ is mentioned in newspapers up till 1939, when she seems to have dropped out of fashion. Father Christmas sill features in department stores as a draw card for shoppers today. (NZ History)
Little’s store in the Hutt was one advertising a Father Christmas parade and ‘magic cave’.
Petone featured a ‘Christmas Shopping Carnival’ in the 1930s, with Liebezeits’ chinaware store winning ‘best decorated car’ in 1931, probably the one pictured below.
Early parades had Santa arriving by car or train, but by the 1930s Santas around NZ began arriving by more exotic means – in 1933 he arrived at Hutt Park by jet boat at the Railway Department’s Road Motor Service picnic. The Evening Post captioned him ‘a modern Santa Claus’, ‘right up to date by arriving in a speed-boat during the afternoon’. (Evening Post, 13 December 1933)
Santa visits to places such as hospitals and orphanages began in the late 1800s to distribute gifts to the disadvantaged. Church groups like the Salvation Army were among those who held Christmas parties for the needy. But Christmas parties for work places, clubs and friends have always been popular.
Hutt Railway Workshops held huge Christmas parties during the 1930s and Santa added helpers, such as clowns or fairies during this time.
During World War Two Christmas parades were postponed, resuming again in the late 1940s. The 1949 Wainuiomata Christmas parade featured volunteer firemen and fire trucks, marching girls and a pipe band. (Photos from Hutt City Libraries.)
In the 1970s Lower Hutt City installed Christmas decorations and lights.
Three 25 foot Christmas candles were installed by crane in time for Christmas 1971 at the Ewen Bridge roundabout. They dwindled to two over the years, and due to vandalism and age 1998 was the last year they appeared.
Decorations spread to houses in the annual ‘Christmas Lights Spectacular’ competition, beginning in 1999 in Hathaway Avenue, Lower Hutt.
Hutt City Libraries 1998 Christmas bookworm parade
Stokes Valley Christmas parade, 8 December 2012
2016 Petone Twilight Christmas parade, Jackson Street