The Christmas season in these exciting times begins in earnest just seconds after Halloween when department store managers throw out the candy and begin tossing up the yule trappings of trees and tinsel.

But the first steps in the home stretch of the headlong race to Christmas will come on Saturday, Dec. 1, when the 36th annual Belmont Shore Christmas Parade steps off at 6 p.m., lighting the fuse for the ensuing holiday parades in town.

At 36, you’d think the Shore parade would be able lay claim to some measure of seniority in town, but the city’s biggest parade, with more than 100 entries and over a dozen marching bands, is also its youngest.

The Belmont Shore Parade’s theme this year is the easy-to-follow “Parade of Lights.” The three-hour bash has marchers heading from Livingston Drive east to Bay Shore Avenue and then the parade hairpins around the turn and travels back to Livingston. Most nearby streets will be closed at 4 p.m. and viewers are urged to bundle up and bring blankets and chairs.

A week later, on Saturday, Dec. 8, it’s the battle of a pair of parades with long histories in Long Beach. If your tastes run more toward the homespun, you’re going to want to head to Wrigley to catch the 65th edition of the Daisy Avenue Christmas Tree Lane Parade at 5 p.m. It’s a quaint affair and as close to a small-town-style parade as you’re going to find in our sprawling sophisticated metropolis. You’ll see ponies and puppies, fancy cars and maybe a clutch of nuns somberly strolling down the parade route that goes down Daisy Avenue between Pacific Coast Highway and Hill Street.

Decadent opulence more to your liking? Also on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m., you’ll find the 72nd running of the Naples Christmas Boat Parade, the oldest parade in Long Beach, stretching back practically to the Ark Ages.

Not only will you be allowed to gawk at the armada of Duffy boats and their more boisterous  gas-powered cousins all decked out and cruising through the canals, but you can do it while strolling along the canal-front homes that owners decorated at a cost you, frankly, can’t afford. Larger parade craft that can’t fit through the canals will cruise around in circles on the Bay.

If the parade isn’t gaudy enough, organizers have tasked boat owners with the theme “Star Spangled Christmas.” Go!

And Long Beach doesn’t have just one nautical Christmas Parade. No sense letting all that water go to waste. The middle-aged Parade of 1,000 Lights will set sail for the 56th time at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15. Decorated watercraft of all sizes, but mostly large, starts outside Downtown’s Shoreline Marina and they cruise past the Pine Avenue Pier, then across the Queensway Bay and past the Queen Mary.

Your best viewing locations are from Shoreline Village, Rainbow Harbor and the Queen Mary.

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