As a child, each year my parents took me to see the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade, which was held on a Saturday, since the stores were not allowed to open on Sundays. The intersection of Queen and Yonge Street was the heart of the Christmas celebration for Toronto as the two major department stores were located there – Eaton’s and Simpson’s. This continued until the era of the indoor plazas, Yorkdale being the first.
The Simpson’s Store is now the Bay (Queen Street Store), and the old Eaton’s Store has been demolished, the site now a part of the Eaton’s Centre. Eaton’s and Simpson’s both contained a Santa Claus in their Toyland, where parents had their children’s pictures taken with old St. Nick. It was as much a ritual of the season as hanging the stockings on Christmas Eve at the foot of the bed or on a fireplace mantle.
My mother always told me that the real Santa was the one at Eaton’s, and that the Santa at Simpson’s was merely his helper. I later learned that this was because she shopped at Eaton’s. Part of her loyalty to the store was because Eaton’s sponsored the Santa Claus Parade each year. Macy’s Department Store in the States learned how to create their Thanksgiving Day Parade from Eaton’s. The Parade continues to this day, but it is now sponsored by various commercial enterprises. Sadly, the Bay Store of today does not even sell toys, although in the basement, amid the display of Christmas decorations, the store does have a Santa and children can still have their pictures taken with the jolly old man.
As a child, when my brother and I visited the downtown at Christmas time, my mother always treated us to an ice cream at the entrance to the tunnel that went under Albert Street. It allowed customers to go from the Queen Street Store to the Annex building without going outside in the cold. The Annex building, which was the bargain store, was located on the north side of Albert Street, at James Street, diagonally across from the Old City Hall of today.
The other traditional activity during our downtown visits was to press our noses against the glass of the Queen Street windows of the Simpson’s Store. We watched in fascination as the tiny elves and other animated Christmas characters moved rhythmically in their creative settings. As a child, I liked the window that contained the model trains the most. Today, I still take time to view the windows. It is great that the Bay has continued the Simpson’s tradition of the Christmas windows.
Below are a few scenes of the 2012 Christmas windows at the Bay Store, with the reflections in the glass revealing images of the Eaton’s Centre and the surrounding buildings
The envelope spilling from the basket has a 1946 “Peace Issue” stamp on it, but the postal code is clearly modern.
The Bay window and the reflection of the Old City Hall
To view posts about Christmas in Toronto throughout the years
Christmas cards mailed in Toronto during the years 1924-1926
The Christmas buffet lunch at the Arcadian Court at the Simpson’s Queen Street Store in Toronto (the Bay)
Christmas at Mackenzie House on Bond Street.
Christmas at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market
The Christmas Market at the Distillery District
Memories of the Christmas windows of the Simpson’s store on Queen Street
Christmas at the Kensington Market
Memories of Toyland on the fifth floor of the old Eaton’s Store at Queen and Yonge Street
The Christmas lights on Yonge Street in the 1950s
The history of Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade
The 1940s Christmas radio broadcasts featuring Santa Claus
Christmas at Toronto’s historic St. Andrew’s Market
Christmas trees and seasonal decorations in Toronto
Celebrating the 12 days of Christmas in old Newfoundland
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