I could just smell the chestnuts roasting from the street vendors. I remember every year heading down to the old Simpson's department store on Queen Street (now the Bay) with my parents or my class to see the magical Christmas windows when I was little. The mechanical moving parts. The bright lights and the stories. I just loved this little annual tradition of pressing our little noses on the windows and steaming them up with our breathes. Then heading indoors for a big bowl of noodles or congee.
My family also loved attending the annual Eaton's Santa Claus Parade that seem to travel for miles and miles. I remember my sister and I getting all bundled up (you have NO idea how bundled up we got - Chinese mothers are notorious for overdressing their kids in layers!) to see the gigantic floats, the marching bands, the freaky upside down clowns and of course Santa.
Now as a grown-up I get all nostalic like with the holidays. Christmas is a BIG deal in our home and the annual parade seems to be the official kick-off to the season. We've seem to have created a tradition with our kids, well, the older one for now. He actually participates in the Parade and has for the past 4 years and loves the experience! What kid (or adult) wouldn't want to be part of the Parade? What's amazing to hear from him after every Parade is how he's met other kids from across the city and beyond from all walks of life. For a few hours he discovers a new friend or two, maybe three and they get all dressed up in their costumes and bring joy to thousands upon thousands lined along the parade route and watching on TV.
The 108th Annual Toronto Santa Claus Parade is this coming Sunday, November 18th. And here are some interesting tidbits that you may not have known about the Parade history!
- In 1913, Eaton's arranged for Santa to be pulled by live reindeer, which had been imported from Labrador specifically for the Parade. The reindeer had a dedicated vet who looked after them.
- That same year, children started bringing their letters to Santa to drop into baskets on poles carried by bearers. Every letter with an address received a personal response from Santa.
- In 1929 - to escape from the realities of the Great Depression, families listened to the radio and in the early 30s, CFRB radio began broadcasting a month of dramatic programming that followed Santa's journey from the North Pole to Toronto. By the time the Parade took place, Santa brought with him hope and magic that was needed.
- In 1957, the Parade consisted of 13 large floats and nearly 20 smaller floats with two horse-drawn carriages. Two thousand people marched in the Parade that year with the majority from Metropolitan Toronto Secondary Schools let by 30 teacher Parade marshals.
- In 1976, more than 30 million people across North America watched the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade on TV. The parade route was 7.5 miles long to allow for larger crowds.
- In 1982, Eaton's announced it's withdrawal from sponsorship after 77 years. Within 3 days, 20 companies had signed on to sponsor floats. The tradition of Celebrity Clowns began the following year with more than 60 business executives donating $1000 each.
- Today, the Santa Claus Parade is the largest children's parade in the world and is broadcasted across North America and as far away as New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.
- Over 3000 individuals volunteer their time to make the Santa Claus parade magical every year - 2000 of which are costumed participants and more than 200 Celebrity Clowns.
- Celebrity Clowns are business professionals and kids who make special donations to the Parade for the experience of being clowns during the Parade. Norman Jewison was one of the first ever Celebrity Clowns!
- Air Cadets will be selling red noses on parade day along the route in support of Canadian Tire's Jumpstart program.
- Today, Santa's float is equipped with a Santa Cam to capture the crowds. Souvenir snapshots will be posted on the website.
- And for the first time ever, kids of all ages will have a chance to become one of his Special Helpers for the Parade by contributing to the creation of some parade magic! Parade lovers are invited to make a donation and in turn will have the opportunity to have their name displayed on a special float.
The Parade begins at 12:30 pm at Christie Pitts and makes it's way to St. Lawrence Market. Take the TTC down - it's much easier! For more information on the parade, the history, and the route, please visit www.santaclausparade.com
And of course, Santa is totally with the times.. you can follow him on Twitter at @TOSanta
and on Facebook!
Remember to download the iPhone APP so you can track the parade as it moves along the route...and make it jingle!
Let the magical season begin!
What's your fondest memory of The Santa Claus Parade?