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Toronto Santa Claus Parade

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade, also branded as The Original Santa Claus Parade is a Santa Claus parade held annually on the third Sunday of November in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. More than a half million people attend the parade every year.[1]

The Original Santa Claus Parade
Over here! (5196373059).jpg
Santa at the 2010 Toronto Santa Claus Parade
GenreChristmas parade
FrequencyAnnually, third Sunday in November
Location(s)Toronto, Ontario
Years active1904-present

First held in 1905, it is one of the largest parade productions in North America, the oldest Santa Claus parade in the world, and one of the world's oldest annual parades. Its route is almost 5.6 kilometres (3.5 mi) long, spanning from Christie Pits along Bloor Street West, south on Avenue Road/Queen's Park Crescent/University Avenue to Front Street West, and east along Front to St. Lawrence Market.


Santa readying his ladder to climb up onto the Eaton's store during the 1918 Santa Claus Parade.

The idea for the parade originated from an earlier promotion done by Eatons, on 2 December 1904, when Santa walked from Union Station to the downtown Toronto Eaton Centre location.[2] The first official parade Toronto Santa Claus Parade was first held on December 2, 1905 with just a single float.[2] Sponsored by the Eaton's chain of department stores, Santa was collected at Union Station,[3] and delivered to the downtown Toronto Eaton's store. The parade grew in size each year and attracted large crowds.

For the 1913 parade, Eaton's brought in reindeer from Labrador to pull Santa's sleigh.[4] The first large floats appeared in the 1917 parade.[2]

From 1925 until the late 1960s the floats from the parade were reused in Montreal where Eaton's had been holding Santa Claus Parades since 1909. This arrangement was cancelled due in 1969 due to bombing threats by the Front de libération du Québec and did not resume until it was revived in the 1990s by Défilé du Père Noël, the downtown Montreal business association and is known in French as Défilé du Père Noël. Eaton's also launched a Santa Claus Parade in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1909. Eaton's sold the Winnipeg parade to the Winnipeg Firefighters Club in 1965 and it has continued as a community parade to this day, but is now operated by the Winnipeg Jaycees.[5]

A float in the 1956 parade.

Beginning in 1947, a recurring character, Punkinhead, was seen each year in the parade.[6] Punkinhead was a character in a series of storybooks sold by Eaton's. By the 1950s the Toronto parade was the largest Santa Claus parade in North America.[7] Eaton's continued to pay for the parade, which was used to promote its retail business.[5] The company's Merchandise Display Department worked year-round at Eaton's Sheppard and Highway 400 service building to make costumes and build floats and mechanized window tableaux. In 1952, the parade was televised for the first time by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.[2] The parade's first broadcast in colour was in 1970.[2]

Eaton's association with the parade ended in 1982 and almost led to the parade's demise.[8] Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey spearheaded a "Save Our Parade" campaign, and soon after a group of businessmen led by Ron Barbaro and George Cohon, with the help of 20 corporate sponsors, stepped in to save the parade.[9][3] Cohon retired from the parade organization in 2014. Today the parade is funded by various corporate sponsors (including McDonald's, Canadian Tire, Lowe's, The Walt Disney Company, Toys R Us, Mattel, and Tim Horton's) which are featured in floats. In 1983, the Celebrity Clowns began and remains a tradition of the parade today.

A Lego float at the 2015 parade.

In 2011, the parade route moved its southbound leg from Yonge Street, via Dundas Street West, to Avenue Road, Queen's Park Crescent and University Avenue. Thus ending the tradition of passing the Toronto Eaton Centre, once home to the parade's former sponsor. Eaton Centre, one of many parade sponsors, continues to host the pancake breakfast.


From 1952 to 1981, CBC Television broadcast the parade.[3] The parade aired on CFRB radio from the 1930s through the 1950s and then on CBC Radio. CHFI-FM is the current radio broadcaster having taken over from CBC Radio in the 1980s. In 1973, the parade received its first French-language television broadcast on Télé-Métropole.[10] The broadcast was hosted by the puppets from the francophone children's series Nic et Pic.[10]

Global carried the parade in Canada and made its feed available in several other countries, including New Zealand, Ireland and Norway, primarily by broadcasters owned by or affiliated with Global's parent company CanWest between 1984 and 2009.[citation needed] On April 6, 2010, it was announced that CTV had acquired the rights to the parade, with the telecast airing on CTV and CP24.[11][12][13]

In the United States, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade was one of several formerly featured by CBS as part of its All American Thanksgiving Day Parade special, which featured coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, as well as pre-recorded coverage from other major Christmas and Thanksgiving holiday parades in the United States. However, this aspect has since been dropped, and the special has served (unofficially) as a telecast of the Macy's parade only.

Access and transit closuresEdit

Streets around the downtown core are closed from approximately 8:00 a.m. through afternoon of parade day. While some parking is available, organizers encourage viewers to take public transit. GO Transit (via Union Station) and Toronto Transit Commission's subway stations provide access to the parade route.[14]


  1. ^ Rehel, Jason (17 November 2012). "Five Things You Need To Know Before Heading To The Santa Claus Parade On Sunday". National Post. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  2. ^ a b c d e "History: Dec 02, 1904- longest running children's parade begins in Toronto". Radio Canada International. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 December 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "7 things to know about the Santa Claus Parade". CBC News, Nov 13, 2015.
  4. ^ "One-Tank Trips: Parade, festival kick off holiday season". London Free Press, Jim Fox. November 11, 2016
  5. ^ a b "Eaton's Parade". National Archives of Canada website.
  6. ^ Doug Taylor (November 2010). Arse Over Teakettle: An Irreverent Story of Coming of Age During the 1940s in Toronto. iUniverse. pp. 330–. ISBN 978-1-4502-0531-3.
  7. ^ "Unrivaled memories of the Santa Claus Parade in Montreal 1925 to 2012". Destination Centre-ville. October 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  8. ^ "Saving the Santa Claus Parade". Torontoist. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-13.
  9. ^ Mike Filey (1992). Toronto Sketches: The Way We Were. Dundurn. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-1-55002-176-9.
  10. ^ a b Steve Penfold, A Mile of Make-Believe: A History of the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade. University of Toronto Press, 2016. ISBN 9781442630987.
  11. ^ "Santa Claus Parade comes to CTV". CTV News. 6 April 2010. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  12. ^ "CP24 to broadcast Santa Claus Parade live" (Press release). CP24. 6 April 2010. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  13. ^ "Only Five More Sleeps Until THE SANTA CLAUS PARADE on CTV and CP24, Nov. 21" (Press release). CTV. 16 November 2010. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 2014-05-13.
  14. ^ Freeman, Joshua (17 November 2013). "Road closures in effect for the 109th Santa Claus Parade". CTV News. Retrieved 2014-05-13.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit