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Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade

The Story


During the 1900s Eaton's Christmas traditions mark the beginning of the holiday season for many Canadians. Children eagerly await the arrival of the Eaton's Christmas catalogue with its dazzling toy section and families plan special trips to downtown stores to see the mechanized Christmas window displays. But no tradition is more rooted in the Canadian psyche than the Eaton's Santa Claus parade. By the 1950s the Toronto parade is the largest in North America. This radio interview shows the elaborate preparations that go on behind the scenes. The parade, which appears first in Toronto and a week later in Montreal, often stretches for a mile and a half with fanciful floats, marching bands and about 1,000 participants wearing colourful costumes. Children apply to march in the parade and sometimes have to wait three years to get their turn. Eaton's pays for the entire production and has a year-round staff dedicated to creating the parade. Thousands of people line the parade route and by the 1970s more than 30 million people across North America watch the event on TV. With so much at stake, Eaton's takes no chances with the focal point of the event -- Santa Claus. Always following Santa's sleigh is a car carrying a doctor, a nurse and a spare Santa -- just in case.

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Nov. 15, 1957
Guests: Jack Brockie, Marg Morrison, Bill Brenwood
Host: Maria Barrett
Reporter: Jack Hill
Duration: 9:06

Did You know?


• Eaton's Santa Claus parade had its humble beginning in 1905. A few hundred people watched Santa Claus, sitting on a decorated horse-drawn wagon, travel from Toronto Union Station to the Eaton store a short distance away. Montreal had its first parade in 1925.

• In 1948 Eaton's published Punkinhead, The Sad Little Bear, the story of a teddy bear who eventually gets to be in Santa's parade. The Punkinhead character was a hit and Eaton's featured him in story booklets, records and television commercials. Punkinhead was routinely cheered when he marched in the Eaton's Santa Claus parade.

• Each year, Eaton's published a Santa Claus Parade Christmas Coloring Book.

• Eaton's Santa Claus parade was first televised on CBC in 1952.

• In 1969, following the FLQ bombings, the Montreal parade was cancelled. It never ran again.


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