Santa Claus parades are parades held in some countries, but above all in North America, to celebrate the official opening of the Christmas season with the arrival of Santa Claus. Santa Claus parades usually include themed floats, dancing or marching groups and bands playing Christmas songs. The parade is a moving pageant that ends near the center of a city. It is a direct descendant of late Medieval and Renaissance revivals of Roman Triumphs, which had music and banners, wagons filled with the spoils of war, and climaxed with the dux riding in a chariot, drawn by two horses, and thus called the biga. (A quadriga such as surmounts the Brandenburg Gate is drawn by four horses.) Similarly, the climax of a Santa Claus parade is always Santa in his sleigh, drawn by eight reindeer (an octigia). Roman Triumphs were themselves consciously modelled on ceremonies honoring the gods, and Santa Claus himself is the descendant of Saint Nicholas. The Santa Claus parade directly corresponds to the modern triumphal entry of Santa Claus.
One of the best known Santa Claus parades is the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, held annually near the middle of November in Toronto, Ontario. The Toronto Santa Claus Parade started in 1905 with just a single float. It now has over 24 floats, 24 bands, and 1700 participants. It is one of the biggest productions in North America, and is broadcast to many countries around the world.
In New York City the parade is Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, famous for its giant helium-filled balloons. The parade began in the 1920s, with Macy's employees in costume, and— a distinctively Roman touch— animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. The giant balloons made an early appearance, with Felix the Cat in 1927. The 'Macy's Parade' was held in abeyance during World War II, in 1942 - 1945, but even the assassination of President Kennedy a few weeks previously didn't abort the parade in 1963. The inflation of the balloons in the streets flanking the American Museum of Natural History the night before has become a traditional gathering for New York's Upper West Side.
Santa Claus Parades are also popular in New Zealand. Major parades are held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.