The history of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade began in 1905. The inaugural edition of the parade was funded and operated by the Eaton’s chain of department stores. The first parade featured just a single float, but it still was a success and became a regular event. In 1913, Santa’s sleigh was pulled by live reindeer imported from Labrador. The deer were looked after by a dedicated veterinarian and had a special diet of moss. Following the parade, they retired to the property of an Eaton’s executive outside the city of Toronto.
The parade became such a popular and beloved event that it survived through the Great Depression and the Second World War. However, materials were so scarce during the war that most participants made their costumes of paper.
In 1982, Eaton’s withdrew from sponsorship of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade after nearly 80 years. The parade found itself on the verge of closure, but a group of local businessmen led by the founder of Canadian McDonald’s George Cohon saved it. That year, they signed 20 companies to sponsor floats.
The next year, the tradition of the Celebrity Clowns was inaugurated. Several dozen executive donated $1000 dollars each to march along the parade route, entertaining kids and giving out balloons. Another parade tradition is the Holly Jolly Five Run, a 5k charity run inaugurated in 2013.
Today, the Toronto Santa Clause Parade is one of the most anticipated holiday events in Ontario and all of Canada. It attracts more than 500,000 people every year. It features 25 unique floats, marching bands and almost two thousands participants. The parade is broadcast nationwide and airs in several other countries, including the USA, Ireland, New Zealand, and Norway.
The parade route is almost 5.6 kilometers long, it goes through downtown Toronto from Christie Pits to St. Lawrence Market. No matter where you stand along the route, you’ll see the parade in all its glory. However, the organizers recommend that you arrive early because the best spots fill up fast.
Photo by HiMY SYeD