In the States it used to be Thanksgiving that marked the start of the holiday season (Now I think it is sometime between Columbus Day and Veterans Day. In Canada that moment remains the Santa Claus Parade. Those parades have come and gone, but we came across this classic picture at the Santa Claus Parade in Montreal, circa 1950’s-60’s. It got us to thinking about how it became such a tradition.
The first Santa Claus Parade was held on December 2, 1905 in Toronto. There was just one float and in the parade, which was operated and funded by Eatons. It now has over 25 floats, 24 bands, and 1,700 participants. The parade route is almost 5.6 kilometers (3.5 mi) long. It is one of the biggest productions in North America and one of the oldest annual parades in the world.
Eaton’s association with the parade ended in 1982 and almost led to the parade’s demise. Businessmen stepped in to save the parade. Today the parade is funded by various corporate sponsors (including McDonald’s, Canadian Tire, Lowe’s, Sears Canada and Tim Horton’s) which are featured in floats.
In 2011, the parade route changed, thus ending the tradition of passing the Eaton Centre, once home to the parade’s former sponsor. Eaton Centre, one of many parade sponsors , continues to host the pancake breakfast.
The parade also continues to be televised across Canada.
Elsewhere, in Canada there are now Santa Claus parades as well, including Halifax, Fredericton, St. John, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Vancouver and Montreal.
Though the parade started in Toronto, it appears that no one can successfully claim Santa for themselves.