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Christmas presentsBetter late than never! The Christmas Canal Parade took place on 15th December 2012 but this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write about it. This was part of the first ever Amsterdam Light Festival which goes on from 7th December to 20th January.  The canal parade was actually organised for the first time in 2009. The initiative was sparked by HenkJan Buchel, Vincent Horbach and Felix Guttmann. After the second parade in 2010, they realised that the interplay with light and water could turn Amsterdam into a wonderful fairytale. So they decided to organise the Amsterdam Light Festival in 2012.

The parade started at the Korte Prinsengracht, at 18.30pm, pretty close to where I live. I had decided though to meet up with a friend of mine and go to the end of the parade route at the Scheepvaart Museum. There is more open space here and it’s a better place to view it. It’s also nice to share the experience with a friend rather than doing things on my own.Multicoloured fountain

On my way to the Scheepvaart Museum, I stopped at the Prinsengracht by the Westerkerk. This was around 18.45pm. A good crowd had gathered on either side of the canals and on the bridges to see the parade and it was hard to find a spot in the crowd to watch the boats cruising past. I managed to squeeze into a tiny space between this Spanish couple and a Dutch family, who were eagerly chatting about the whole event. All the boats along the canal at this section of the route were illuminated with white fairy lights and it created a real Christmassy atmosphere.

What I liked about it, was the fact that you could hear the boats coming before you saw them and the festive music they were playing really livened things up. The Song “ All I Want For Christmas Is You” was a big hit and could be heard from a distance, belted out by a choir on one of the boats. Everybody around me started singing along to the tune. Bands playing lively Christmas tunes and choirs singing carols, were being wafted along the canal on lit up boats of all shapes and sizes.

Art boatI carried on to the Scheepvaart Museum and met up with my friend there. We sat on the wall at Kadijksplein and it was a perfect place to see the boats coming under the bridge into the open water. It wasn’t a warm night to say the least and if I’d known I’d be sitting on a cold wall for two hours, I would have brought a blanket to sit on. My butt was frozen solid by the time the parade was over but it was worth it. We had a pretty close view of the boats coming through but it’s times like this that I realise I need a good camera with a lens to make the most of things like this. Some of my photos came out blurred.

The first boat came through at around 8.15pm. There was a guy on a tiny motor Cone shaped Delft peaksboat, who you see now and again in the summertime, around the canals of Amsterdam. His boat was at the bridge and heralded the other ones that came through. Every now and again, depending on the song being played by the various bands, he would play the first part of the song on his trumpet and the bands would reply with the second part, as they came out under the bridge. My favourite boats were the ones with the Christmas presents, the fire throwers, the cone shaped Delft peaks and the multicoloured fountain. There was quite a big crowd at Kadijksplein also and a lot of people were wearing headbands with two red, illuminated balls on top, that bounced around like Mr. Noddy on a drunken night out!

It was just after 10pm when the last boat sailed past and the dock in front of the Scheepvaart Museum was buzzing with the remnants of tunes being played, brightly coloured boats manoeuvring into parking spots along the edges of the waterway and general merriment with the onset of Christmas. It was a festive atmosphere and maybe next year the parade will be even bigger and better.