The 109th Annual

Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Sunday, November 17th 2013

Santa Arrives at 12:30

Explore the rich history of the Parade.

The Volunteer Spirit

The Santa Claus Parade is a 109 year old tradition made possible by the help of thousands of volunteers and sponsors. It is a not-for-profit organization that receives zero public funding. If we are to keep this great Canadian national treasure alive, we need your support now, more than ever. So please make a donation, of any amount, and lets keep this great tradition alive for another 109 years!

The History

1913 - Historic Hooves
1913 - Historic Hooves

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 veterinarian who looked after them and supplied their special diet of moss. Following the Parade, the reindeer retired to the property of an Eaton's Executive outside Toronto. That year, children along the route started to march through the city along with Santa, stopping to dance and sing as they went. They dropped letters to Santa into baskets on poles carried by bearers. Every letter with an address received a personal response from Santa.

1917 - Birds of a Feather
1917 - Birds of a Feather

By this time, the Parade had seven floats starring nursery rhyme characters. The biggest float that year was a giant swan carrying a band of musicians and clowns, with Santa in the centre of it all. Mother Goose also became a Parade tradition, taking newer more elaborate forms each year.

1919 - Air Santa
1919 - Air Santa

This was the year Santa arrived by air. He touched down on the Aerodrome on Eglinton Avenue, seven years before Lindbergh arrived in Paris. He was to be pulled by horses with outriders dressed as lions. However, the horses balked at the costumes worn by the outriders and were subsequently banned from the Parade.

1925 - A Tale of Two Cities
1925 - A Tale of Two Cities

From 1925 to the late 1960s, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade floats were packed onto railway cars and shipped to Montreal for a Parade the following Saturday. That tradition eventually ended due to the FLQ bombings.

1929 - Escape from Depression Doldrums
1929 - Escape from Depression Doldrums

To escape from the realities of the Great Depression, families pressed their ears to the radio. Starting in the early 1930s, 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, children and adults alike were beyond excitement. Santa brought with him a magic and mystery that gave everyone hope.

1939 - World War Spirit
1939 - World War Spirit

During World War II when materials were scarce, most of the Parade costumes were made of paper. A big draw during this period was for children to watch the Parade from office buildings along the route. All the windows facing South were crowded with children, including the Park Plaza Hotel (today's Park Hyatt).

1948 -
1948 - 'Punkinhead' is Born

In 1948 Eaton's published a children's book called Punkinhead, the Sad Little Bear. It was about a teddy bear who wanted to be in the Santa Claus Parade. Eaton's published several books of Punkinhead's adventures, as well as colouring books, records and television commercials. He was so well-known that children cheered him when he marched in the Parade.

1950 - Santa on the Small Screen
1950 - Santa on the Small Screen

By 1950, the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade was the largest in North America and was first televised on CBC in 1952. For years after that, the Parade was filmed and packaged for schools with professional narration by such well-known broadcasters as Byng Whitteker and Don Harron.

1957 - The Parade Grows
1957 - The Parade Grows

There were 13 large floats in the 1957 Parade 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 led by 30 teacher Parade marshals. The Parade was six miles long and began at 8:30AM - after two solid hours of makeup and dressing

1976 - Popularity Demands Longer Route
1976 - Popularity Demands Longer Route

More than 30 million people across North America watched the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade on television. In 1976, there were 33 small and large floats in the Parade, with room for more than 200 children on the floats and 500 marchers. The route was lengthened to 7.5 miles to allow for larger crowds.

1980 - The Parade Goes Global
1980 - The Parade Goes Global

1980 marked the 75th anniversary of the Parade and 1,700 volunteers participated in the 'Parade Salute', a special theme to mark the year. The Parade featured floats for Canada's major regions, including the Prairies, the Yukon, the West and East coasts. Punkinhead lead a float carrying children from 24 countries to honour the International Year of the Child.

1982 - Businesses Rally to Save the Parade
1982 - Businesses Rally to Save the Parade

Eaton's announced it was withdrawing from sponsorship after 77 years. Within 3 days, 20 companies had signed on to sponsor floats. The tradition of Celebrity Clowns began in 1983, when more than 60 executives donated $1,000 each to hand out balloons, march and entertain kids along the route.

1985 - Turning the Lights On
1985 - Turning the Lights On

The lights around Queen's Park Circle were lit early for the Parade for the first time in 1985. Now there is an annual tree lighting ceremony in downtown Toronto during the days leading up to the Santa Claus Parade.

1989 - The Russian Connection
1989 - The Russian Connection

Between 1989 and 1991, the Santa Claus Parade formed an alliance with Russia (the Soviet Union) just as the Soviet era was coming to a close. In 1989, two Soviet broadcasters, Herman Solomatin and Tatanya Vedenevevasat provided on-the-spot coverage of the Parade, which was broadcast to 250 million viewers in the Soviet Union via the Gosteleradio Network. Based on this interest, Russia was invited to participate in the Parade in 1991.

1995 - 100 Years of Smiles
1995 - 100 Years of Smiles

Today, there are more than 25 animated floats with themes ranging from Harry Potter to Hockey Night in Canada. More than 200 Celebrity Clowns lead the Parade and raise about $200,000 annually, while around 2,000 costumed participants march happily through Toronto's streets. Toronto police asked Parade organizers to extend the route by one mile in order to spread out the crowds of spectators.

Toronto's Santa Claus Parade is the longest running children's Parade in the world, broadcast across North America, as far away as New Zealand, Norway and Ireland.

The Sweetest Sponsors

Since 1982, Companies across Canada have rallied to support and save the parade. Without their support, the parade would have ended and the many memories we have made over the past many decades would have never happened. A big thank you to the following sponsors for their generosity.

Secondary Sponsors

Celebrity Clown Sponsors

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The Santa Claus Parade