If you want to participate in a Christmas parade but aren't sure what type of float to create, you'll find this list of six a great place to begin. The theme depends primarily on the amount of time and money you want to spend working on the float and the message you are trying to convey.
The original Christmas story, the birth of Baby Jesus, can make for a perfect float theme. This would make a great float for a church or any other religious group.
You can use any type of vehicle can be used, but a low boy trailer, a flat bed trailer with short side walls, works well because you can use the short walls to help hold the hay bales in place. Because you are likely to have small children participating (dressed in various costumes) it is nice to have a short wall for safety reasons.
Costumed actors can bring an authentic feel to the scene. Characters from this story include Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, the Wiseman, shepherds, angels, and animals.
- Create or purchase cute animal costumes from places like Oriental Trading Company.
- Costumes for Mary, Joseph, and the Wiseman can be made from common items like bath robes and a towel secured onto the head with a ribbon or tie.
- Use a doll for Baby Jesus.
- Create angels from a white dress and a pair of wings and halo.
Hay bales are a good building block to build a nativity float on. Hay bales can be purchased directly from farmers or from farm supply stores. The bales can be used as seating for actors and strictly as decoration.
Including a stable in your design is ideal, but not necessary. For under $100, you can purchase a stable standee from Shindigz. Or you can make a stable by creating one out of a piece of flat wood. Simply draw the outline of one on wood, cut it out, and paint it. Add a lighted star to the top. Secure it to the trailer to use as a background for the rest of the scene.
Add wood animal cutouts to the sides of the float. Use images of farm animals such a cows, sheep and donkeys. You may also want to include real farm animals such as pigs or sheep if you have them available. Be sure to include a manger, which can be easily made out of wood.
Ice castles and snow princesses are all the rage these days and would make an appropriate Christmas float theme.
A flat bed trailer is a good choice for this type of float. The bigger, the better, but any sized trailer could be used.
Create the Castle
Consider three different options for making the castle.
- Easy column castle - Purchase large columns. These large scale, lighted columns range in price from around $70 for the smaller ones to around $120 for the large, lighted, sequined column. Purchase both larger columns and some smaller ones to make your castle. The number you purchase is mainly based on the size of the trailer you are using. Connect the columns with Christmas garland.
- Purchased castles - Pick up an entire ice castle from Shindigz, which comes with a personalized sign, for just under $170. If it's within your budget, consider buying the entire ice castle kit, which also includes trees and a larger castle set up, for around $700.
- DIY budget option - Make spires out of carpet rolls (painted), topped with cardboard cones. Have a minimum of two spires for the castle, but more would be appropriate if you have room. Consider having some taller spires and some shorter ones to add depth and visual appeal. Make a very simple castle by cutting a silhouette of a one out of wood and painting it white, silver, and icy blue to use as a backdrop.
The easiest way to replicate a snowy look is to buy several rolls of cotton batting from a craft or fabric store to roll out onto the floor of the float. Get the dimensions of the float before buying the batting to make sure that you have enough.
Consider adding a bubble machine to your float to give the idea of the snow and cold, especially if you decide to forgo the cotton batting and go with the ice castle sans snow.
Snowflakes are important elements to include because they help let the audience know that they are looking at a winter-themed castle. Pick up a set of two snowflakes from Walmart for under $30. A night parade may require lighted snowflakes like Christmas Lights Etc.'s large lighted snowflake decoration.
To save money, you can cut large snowflakes out foam core (purchased from a dollar or craft store). If you are in an area that may have rain, you may want to cover the foam core with clear plastic packing tape or contact paper to make them water-proof or you may choose to cut the snowflakes out of wood.
Dress pretty young ladies in long, sparkly silver, white or light blue dresses and place tiaras on their heads to create a pretty ice princess costume. Men can dress in prince costumes or in suits with silver ties.
Adding a silver metallic fringe to the bottom edge of the float will add an icy look to the theme and will help to create a glittery and finished look. Purchase fringe pennants from Auto Dealer Supplies to add detail.
A gingerbread house is a standard image around Christmas time and can be a cute and colorful float.
Although you could use a variety of different types of bases for your float, one without sides is ideal. Consider a flat bed trailer for your float.
A child's playhouse is a good base for a gingerbread house. This wood house is almost $500 but is the right shape and size for a float. If you want a cheaper model, consider a plastic playhouse from Kmart for around $100. You could build your own if you are experienced in construction and have time to plan and execute.
If the house you have selected is not brown, it will not look like gingerbread. Paint the house brown if you can, but if you don't want to do that, cover it with brown craft paper.
Decorating the House
Once you have your house brown and looking like gingerbread, use white paint to create windows and doors and other details. Then it is the time for the fun part of decorating it with colorful candies. Because the house is life-sized, you will have to buy and create large sized candies to decorate the facade.
- Large candy canes are the perfect decoration to flank each side of the door or at the corners. Purchase these 32 inch candy canes in a pack of 24 for under $45 from Jet.com.
- Balloons that look like candy is an inexpensive way to decorate. Be sure to tape them securely to walls of the house so they don't blow away.
- Glue colorful lunch sized paper plates, colorful pieces of paper, or colored paper bowls onto the sides of the roof to look like hard candies or gum drops of the roof.
- Glue dinner sized colorful paper plates to the sides of the house to look like lollipops. Be sure to add a stick to the lollipops by attaching empty white wrapping paper rolls under them.
- Create the look of wrapped hard-candies by painting round pieces of Styrofoam and wrapping them in cellophane and tying them closed with ribbon.
- Peppermint candy standees would also make for a fun addition.
A gingerbread house isn't quite complete without the addition of gingerbread men and women. Cut a simple gingerbread man or woman shape out of cardboard or wood. Use white paint to add details. You can also create tree shapes from cardboard or wood and paint them green with white painted chunks of snow to make them look more authentic.
Wholesale Halloween Costumes sell gingerbread man costumes which could be the perfect addition to the float. You could also add a costumed Hansel and Gretel to your float, along with any other characters you want to include.
Santa's Work Shop
One of the first things most people think of when they hear the word "Christmas" is Santa, so this makes the perfect theme for a float.
Any type of vehicle or platform could work for this type of float. Even the back of a pick up truck could be used, but a flat bed or railed trailer would provide more room.
Other than Santa himself, the workshop will be the focal point of the float. Use a child's playhouse as the structure of the workshop. For around $200 you can purchase a child's backyard playhouse from Walmart to use as the workshop.
The Workshop Sign
Make a simple "Santa's Workshop" sign out of wood and paint. The sign could hang above the door of the house, stand next to the house or be posted above the house. Use white and red for your sign to give it a seasonal look. If you want to purchase a sign instead of creating one, you can find a large arch sign for just over $100 from Stumps Party, which is a good option if you end up having to make a workshop structure instead of buying or borrowing a playhouse. or A suitable smaller one is available from Cafe Press for about $25.
Decorations and Facade
Turn the playhouse into Santa's workshop with some fun decorations. Any standard house Christmas decorations could help create the look.
- Wreaths, evergreen or lighted, hung on the walls would help create a Christmasy look.
- Large red bows are also a nice touch.
- If you want to create the look of snow on the windows or roof, use cotton batting or mylar fringe.
- Add white Christmas trees to the trailer to continue the outdoor feel.
- Hang greenery off the sides of the float to cover the vehicle, but make sure to keep them away from tires.
- Large toys such as rocking horses or this lighted tin soldier are the perfect fit.
The North Pole would not be complete without Santa and the elves. Use costumed actors to portray these roles. You could also include Mrs. Claus or Rudolph. Don't forget to include a few kids who are there to visit Santa in their winter coats, gloves, and scares!
A winter sports theme is a good way to represent a sporting good store, an athletic club, or ski resort in a Christmas parade. Skiing and other sports are popular over the holidays.
A large flat bed trailer is the perfect vehicle to use to create this float. It will have to be large to accommodate the mountain.
Create a mountain by making a wood frame and connecting them with planks of wood. This is a time-consuming project, so start construction as soon as you can. You will likely need help from a contractor or someone who is skilled with building. Decide on how tall you want your mountain to be, but keep in mind that it will have to be at least 6 feet tall (ideally, taller) to look like a mountain. Use wood to build two triangular frames for the ends and connect them with planks to build the face of the mountain.
Another way you could create the mountain is to stack bales of hay to the height you want your mountain to be. Have the tallest stacks on the back and gradually create a slope on the front by stacking them one bale shorter with each consecutive row.
Once the base has been completed, you can add cotton batting to give it a snowy look. Be sure to measure the mountain surface, the back, and sides when figuring how much batting to purchase. You will also need some batting for the floor of the trailer.
Decorations and Details
Now that you have built your mountain and covered it with snow, you can add the details to create the finished look.
- Add artificial Christmas trees to your mountain scene to give it a more authentic look. Be sure to flock the trees so they look appropriate.
- Add a ski lift made from PVC pipes or a clothesline.
- To give your mountain more glitter, consider sprinkling craft glitter onto your snowy surface.
- Add skis, snow shoes, sleds and other accessories to the mountain float to make your look more authentic.
Costumes for this type of float is likely to be very easy to find or create. All that is needed is outdoor winter items like ski coats, stocking caps, scarves and mittens. Unless your mountain is made from solid, sturdy materials and sound construction, it's best to have characters walk beside, behind, or in front of the float itself.
Glistening snow and icy trees are the perfect backdrop for a snowman's wonderland-themed float.
Choose the Platform
Various types of vehicles could be used to create this type of float. Consider a flat bed trailer or even a hay trailer for best results.
Igloo Focal Point
Just like a good painting, the float should have a central focal point. A large cardboard igloo can make for the perfect central image.
- Stack two large cardboard boxes (like large appliance boxes) together and glue.
- Add smaller boxes to the four corners and glue on as desired.
- Spray paint white.
- Once the paint has dried, add thin blue or gray lines to represent the ice blocks.
- Hang a white sheet to create the doorway.
- Attach a rope at one of the doorway's top corners and then stretch out several feet and attach to the float's floor. Do the same on the other side to create a drawbridge effect.
- Hang ornaments from the drawbridge ropes as desired.
- Criss-cross play swords above the doorway.
Decorations and Details
After you have chosen a focal point for your float, you can start adding details. Be sure that you have a white ground to look like snow. A large sheet or sheets of cotton batting could accomplish this. If you would rather, you could spray paint the floor of the trailer with snowy white paint.
Add a large artificial Christmas tree, decorated in traditional Christmas colors, with candy canes and ball ornaments or opt to use only icy blue and silver ornaments. For glitter and twinkle, add some strands of Christmas tree lights on the tree and the igloo.
Snowman figures can be added around the igloo. These can be large stuffed snowmen, wooden cut outs, or even lighted yard snowmen for an evening parade.
A snowman waving to his wonderland subjects is essential. He should be seated front and center on the float, next to his home. If desired, you can choose to make your snowman Frosty from the famous tune. Sugar plum fairies, dressed in sparkly outfits and icy blue wings can also adorn your float. You may even want to have an appearance from Jack Frost.
Plan Ahead for Success
Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and money when creating your parade float. However, if you have built your float and it still looks sparse, consider adding fillers such as artificial Christmas tress, poinsettia plants, and evergreen garland.