Kitchener/Waterloo had its Santa Claus parade this morning, which got me somewhat sentimental about parades past.
I don't remember ever LIKING parades very much. They were always cold and there weren't any warm diabetic drinks for children, and even if there WAS a warm drink you wouldn't be able to pee until the parade was over. If you moved to the front of the crowd, clowns and other entertainers would try to interact with you, but if you moved to the back you couldn't see anything. The marching bands were fun, and I always liked the majorettes and the fire engines, but at the end was the Santa Claus who I didn't believe in, and gosh my feet were cold.
My primary childhood memories of parades are the smell of coffee and exhaust fumes and other people's cloudy breath, the press and squish of puffy outerwear, the sight of legs in front of me, the never-ending jingle of xylophones, and the fear that I'd somehow get separated from my parents if I moved too far away.
Much later, for three years I lived in a house that was just behind the parade starting line, where all the floats and performers would assemble at 8am and start tootling their horns. I was working night shifts at the time so the last thing I wanted to see were a bunch of tipsy Shriners under my bedroom window.
But despite my desire to generally AVOID parades, I still see goodness in them, like many other activities that I avoid. And today, walking along beside the route, I felt affection for the volunteers who danced around to make the children happy, and the freezing parents who feigned awe at the spectacle in order to charm the youngsters, and I was most impressed by the Bethany Church group who do some sort of Christmas reenactment (involving mounted Roman soldiers, a camel, and a swaddled-up baby Jesus).
Sure it's mainly about advertising for the companies involved -- every float had a corporate sign, all the local radio stations had their slickest announcers out -- but seeing kids go "YAY!" at something they loved was a positive thing. It's ritual, socialization, and a bit of "let loose" for us repressed Canadians.
Like most winter activities, I'm glad they happen. Just don't expect me to shiver with you.