Christmas spirit flowed in the air in downtown Vancouver when 300,000 spectators lined in the streets for the eighth annual Rogers Santa Claus parade Sunday afternoon.The sunshine spilt as 3,500 paraders composed of over 60 bands, choirs, dance troupes, floats and other community groups marched through the streets, tossing candies and treats to the crowds.The parade has become one of Vancouver's biggest yearly events, prior to which, families were invited to the Christmas Square set up in the streets for crafts and entertainment."It's kind of just let the kids get on Santa Claus, see him. We start with this, we go to Stanley Park then breakfast with Santa, so it just starts our holiday season," said Bindi Gill, who comes from Surrey every year with her three children for the parade."Kids and families can come and write letters to Santa, have their faces painted, and just have fun, just have a great day with the family, enjoy themselves, and kick off the Christmas spirit," said Nelson, vice president and general manager of the Rogers Communications Group, which funds the parade. "Vancouver's reaction to the parade just keeps getting better and better each year."The parade is also a fine place to tell the spirit of giving. Spectators were asked to bring along food or money as donations to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, which would help provide food to 25,000 people every week in the metro."It's a really great opportunity for people to be in the spirit of Christmas and giving, and bring down food or cash donations and help those that are perhaps less fortunate," said Doug Aason, director of community investment for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.With 63,000 pounds of food and nearly 100,000 dollars raised since the first parade in 2004, the parade turned out to be one of the bank's largest food and fund raising events of the year."We put out over 8 million pounds of food through our warehouse last year. That's a lot of needy folks in our community," Aason said. "So it's not just a time of giving now, it's to remember that during the rest of the year there is an opportunity to give and celebrate the spirit of giving throughout the entire year."As for many families, the parade marks the official beginning of a season of Christmas fun and traditions. When St. Nick waves to the crowds at the end of the parade, it's time to start counting down the days to his return on Christmas Eve.