Today is one of the most special days in Manhattan. As I look out my hotel window, I see thousands of people walking down the street towards the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The city is alive with an electricity and energy that signals the official start of the holiday season.
But I won’t be going anywhere near this famous event today for one simple reason: I hate parades.
On the surface, taking your family to a holiday parade seems like a magical idea. But in reality, a trip to a Santa Claus parade with your kids is just an exercise in frosty futility.
And I’m not talking only about big parades like the one they have here in New York City. I’m referring to the smaller scale parades that happen in thousands of communities across Canada as well.
Basically, I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to hating parades; I don’t like them whether they are big or small.
So this week, I wanted to tackle five issues I have with attending the Santa Claus parade with my family:
1. Don’t try and deny it — it’s always too cold
I know as Canadians we’re supposed to embrace the winter weather, but our secret shame is that we actually hate the cold. And on parade day, you can count on a whipping wind when the festivities are about to start. The kids complain that it’s too cold, but you tell them to soldier on because this is going to be a precious family memory. (And it’s true, because they will bring this up in therapy years later). You can try and get a complimentary hot chocolate to warm up, but the lineup is so long that the tent may as well have a sign that reads “Meet Justin Bieber.” And even if you do manage to get your hands on a hot chocolate, ask yourself this important question: Have you ever had a hot beverage experience that went smoothly with a four-year-old?
2. Hey, is this just one big commercial?
The local Santa Claus parade usually starts with a float from a prominent real estate agent. Then it’s followed up by an entry from a local pizzeria with their third-rate mascot. “Hey kids, it’s Mr. Mozzarella!” And as each business-sponsored float rolls by at 5 mph, you realize that you are just slowly being subjected to a series of advertisements. But sadly, there is no PVR option that allows you to fast-forward these things, so you just have to stand there in the bitter cold and wave at the insurance broker who bought a float.
3. You’re screwed if you don’t show up early
If you’re like my family, you will always arrive late to an event. And so by the time we get to a parade, all the good spots are taken. The front row is filled with the annoying families who came hours in advance with their folding chairs, blankets and a thermos of chicken noodle soup. I love my family to death, but am I going to enjoy spending two hours of pre-parade time sitting on lawn chairs with them in November? I don’t think so. By the time we show up, there are already a few rows of people who have to stand up to watch the parade. And so if our kids want to see anything, we have to hoist them onto our shoulders or lift them up for extended periods of time. The nice thing is that a local chiropractor will likely have a float going by so you can just grab his business card for the future visits you’ll need to make to his office.
4. What if my kid is in the parade?
If you dislike parades as much as I do, then the worst-case scenario is when your child is asked to ride in a float. You will be subjected to a series of emails from a militant organizer who will tell you what time and where you need to meet the float. (Because heaven forbid, if a float leaves without you there is no way you can catch up to it on foot). I should point out that the last time our daughter participated in a parade, she actually fell asleep on the float. She was only three years old at the time, but the fact that a child can fall asleep while riding on a float underscores a truth that nobody wants to face: Parades are utterly boring — even if you’re the one riding on the float.
5. Everyone is agitated by the time Santa shows up
Your face is numb to the point where your cheek feels like a dentist shot you with Novocain. At best, you’ve had a small Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate. You are now struggling to hold both a child and a balloon. And you suddenly realize the major design flaw of the Baby Bjorn is that it didn’t come with a wind guard. Everybody is ready to go home, but you can’t until Santa shows up. If you leave before Santa Claus shows up, the other families — especially the ones sitting on lawn chairs — will know that you’ve been defeated. And that is a walk of shame you don’t want to make. So my best advice is simple: Just don’t go to the parade.
Does your family attend a Santa Claus Parade?