Christchurch’s First Christmas Parade – 1947

From the time that New Zealand’s department stores adopted the idea of in-store Santas to help bring in the Christmas shoppers, new and exciting ways were dreamt up for how Saint Nick could arrive into the city.

In 1905, Wellington’s children were invited to attend the arrival of Father and Mother Christmas as they made a grand entrance via a train. This was the beginning of the New Zealand’s Christmas Parades.

One year during the 1930’s, Christchurch’s Armstrong Department Store had our first Santa arrive by elephant. But the tradition of Christchurch’s ‘Christmas Parade’ did not really take off until 1947.
Hays Department Store pulled out all stops to welcome their Santa into the city. They made their own seasonal floats right there in their own workshops. The parade started very much like they always have before the earthquakes – starting from the old Christchurch Railway Station (Hoyts 8 and the Science Alive building now demolished as of 2015) on Moorhouse Ave to Victoria Square (where Hays Department Store fronted on to Armagh Street) via Colombo Street.

James Hay had opened his business on 13th December 1929. After working for Beaths and Ballantynes department stores, he wanted to open a shopping establishment aimed more at the working classes. In 1968, Hays became known as ‘Haywrights’ and then ‘Farmers’ in 1987. Although he remained in the business he started in one role or another, he also found the time to work within the ranks of the C.C.C. and was the first Chairman of the Canterbury Museum Trust Board. He established the J.L Hay Charitable Trust and was a great driving force behind the fundraising for Christchurch’s current Town Hall. His efforts are remembered today in the naming of the James Hay Theatre. He is also the father of Sir Hamish Hay; Christchurch’s longest serving Mayor (1974 – 1989).

As the 1990’s rolled round, most of the department stores that began this grand tradition found the expenses harder to cover. It was then that numerous charitable trusts and city councils took over. Today, our parade is run by the Christchurch Children Christmas Parade Trust with backing from the C.C.C and the Community Trust just to name a few. The parade attracts over 120,000 people every year with over 2500 participants/volunteers taking part.

*Image courtesy of longwhitekid via Tim Newman – https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com*

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