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Adelaide Christmas pageant

In 2002 the Adelaide Christmas pageant was recognised by the National Trust as one of South Australia's 'Heritage icons'.

The inaugural pageant was staged by department store John Martin & Co. (John Martin's) in 1933. The brainchild of John Martin's chairman, Edward Hayward, the pageant was based on similar festive parades in North America. The effects of the Depression were still being felt heavily, and Hayward wanted to stage an event that would bring joy to the people of Adelaide, as well as ushering in the Christmas season by welcoming Father Christmas to the John Martin's 'Magic Cave'.

The first pageant was preceded by a clever marketing campaign. Messages contained in John Martin's press and radio advertisements kept children up to date on the progress of Father Christmas as he travelled from the North Pole to Adelaide, collecting characters for the pageant along the way.

Enticed by this advertising, and by Father Christmas himself - who flew over Adelaide on the morning of the pageant inviting people to come along - a large crowd turned out to witness the event. Its success led to the decision to hold the pageant annually.

With the exception of 1939-1944, when festivities were suspended due to World War II, the pageant has taken place every year - rain, hail or shine.

Generations of South Australian children have been delighted by the annual spectacle and its most popular attractions, including:

  • Nipper and Nimble, the grey and chestnut rocking horses
  • Nellie the mechanical elephant
  • clowns, whose antics both entertain the crowd and ensure the smooth running of the pageant
  • the Pageant Queen, who gracefully presides over the day and officially welcomes Father Christmas to the 'Magic Cave'
  • Father Christmas himself, whose appearance announces the arrival of the festive season in Adelaide.

Since 1996, the Christmas pageant has been owned and organised by the South Australian Government, through the South Australian Tourism Commission.

A long-term pledge of sponsorship from six of the state's credit unions has ensured the continuation of this South Australian icon beyond the life of its originator, John Martin's.

In 2007 the pageant celebrated '75 years of magic'.

50 years of joy
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75 years of magic
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A touch of magic
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Adelaide's best procession
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Christmas Pageant footage, 1938
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Christmas Pageant footage, 1950
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Christmas Pageant, 1933
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Christmas Pageant, 1946
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Christmas Pageant, 1977
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Clowns
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Father Christmas
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Humpty Dumpty
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