Christmas may be five weeks away but people across the city are full of the holiday spirit. The jolly one himself made his first appearance of the year on Sunday and thousands, some with a hot cocoa in hand, lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the big guy himself!
This annual event, now in its 101st year, is a mecca for kids and Christmas fans of all ages, shapes and sizes from all parts of the city. They line the parade's 25 kms route with family, friends, even pets to see the colourful floats go by, to greet the crazy clowns with their bags full of candy treats and to cheer on the vibrant bands and music groups that play those old seasonal favourites that help put us in the mood of things! For some like me, its a once in a way event, if and when I can make it. For others, its been a family tradition spanning generations!
But the parade that survived the Depression and two World Wars wasn’t always the grand event it is now; it actually had rather humble beginnings. Timothy Eaton’s department store held the first Santa Claus Parade in Toronto and in the inaugural event the man in the red suit made the mythical journey from the North Pole to Union Station in downtown Toronto. In the first few years Santa was the only feature, and he would make his way through the streets in a coach drawn by four horses and accompanied by four trumpeters. He was later joined by attendants in festive costumes and clowns.
As the years wore on, the Santa spectacle grew bigger and bigger and organizers kept outdoing themselves adding features like floats, marching band, performers and even local celebritires making guest appearences. The event hit a roadblock back in 1982 when Eatons announced that it would cancel the parade, because of the recession it couldn’t justify the cost of the event. But Toronto residents wouldn’t have it. A massive campaign was launched and the parade went ahead as scheduled with the help of corporate sponsors.
One hundred (and one) years later Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade is still going strong, and hopefully it will for another 100.