When one thinks of enormous department store sponsored Santa Claus parades held in November, the first one that usually comes to mind is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. However, that was neither the first parade of its kind, nor is it today the largest. That honor instead goes to the Toronto Santa Claus Parade in Canada, which celebrated its one-hundredth aniversary in 2005. It is by far the largest pre-Christmas celebration in Canada, and one of the most popular world wide, drawing television audiences comparable to its New York City rival.
While the idea of a Santa Claus parade was not new at the turn of the century, most early parades were local events sponsored by municipalities or chambers of commerce. In 1905, Eaton’s department store in Toronto began a new corporate tradition by sponsoring its own Santa Claus parade, thereby establishing a precedent that would soon be copied by department stores all over North America, including Macy’s.
The first Toronto Christmas parade featured Santa Claus arriving on foot and being greeted by the store’s owner, Timothy Eaton, and a few hundred onlookers. Within a few years the parade had grown much more extravagant, featuring bands, floats and other entertainment. As part of the parade’s attraction, marchers carried baskets into which Toronto’s eager children dropped their letters to Santa Claus. Each letter received a personal reply from Santa. In 1982, the Eaton department store ended its sponsorship of the parade, but that did little to diminish enthusiasm for Canada’s main pre-Christmas event. Today, despite the loss of Eaton, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade is as popular as ever.
The Toronto Christmas Parade usually takes place on the second or third Sunday in November, about a week ahead of its New York City rival. Over half a million people usually lines the route which traditionally runs down Bloor Street, Avenue Road, Queen Street, Yonge Street and finally Front Street. The parade begins at 12:30pm and usually runs between three and four hours. Web: www.thesantaclausparade.ca (official website of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade)