Just hear those sleigh bells ringing . . .

Lisa Dumontier

The holiday season is now in full effect. Although it seems like just yesterday I was carving pumpkins and readying my kids’ Halloween costumes, November has breezed by and December is already upon us. No more raking leaves and celebrating the red and yellow beauty of fall, it’s time to shovel our driveways, don hats and mittens, and cross our fingers that the -40 temps don’t hurry to come banging at our doors.

The Christmas countdown has officially begun with advent calendars pulled out and dusted off and holiday teas and bake sales quickly grabbing hold of every available weekend between now and December 25th. Holiday boughs and lights were hung on street posts last week, blow-up penguins and snowmen are taking over yards and Santa Claus is about to make his first official visit to the Red Lake area—naughty kids be warned!

On December 2nd, no matter how warm or cold it is, local businesses and organizations will gather together to take part in the annual Parade of Lights in Red Lake. Armed with colourful lights, tinsel, evergreen boughs and red ribbon galore, local trucks, trailers, four-wheelers, boats and sometimes even canoes will don their holiday best as they act as Rudolph, guiding Santa and his sleigh down Howey Street in Red Lake and up to the Red Lake Legion for photo ops, hot chocolate and hot dogs. It’s really a lot of fun and a great start to a season filled with over-indulgence and celebrations spent with family and friends.

Unfortunately, while the Legion is always packed full of families scrambling to grab a photo with Santa, pick up their special holiday package or warm their cold bones with tasty treats, the parade route can sometimes leave participants wanting more. What was once a widely celebrated kick-off to the holiday season that had spectators lining up to take part in rows three people deep has become largely under attended which is really unfortunate because celebrating the Parade of Lights is a blast especially for the young—and young at heart—who eagerly wait to wave to Santa or hear him call out “Ho! Ho! Ho!”.

I watch the parade twice every year. Yes that’s right. Twice. I stand in the cold and wish I’d warn more layers or warmer mittens, admiring my friend’s long puffy parka which is undoubtedly warmer then my own, sipping hot chocolate and waiting for the dozen or so floats to pass by before quickly warming up in the truck and heading back out to wave once again. It’s become a sort of tradition I suppose and while there have been some years where my toes have been calling it a day long before the second sighting of Santa could take place, I have braved the cold and weathered the storm to support the groups who give up their time to try to make the holidays a little brighter for us all.

While it may not be the Toronto Santa Claus Parade filled with animated floats and colourful sky-high creations, the Red Lake Parade of Lights is a festive way to start off the month of December and a great way to earn bonus points with Santa’s list checkers at the North Pole.

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