Windows on Christmas

I am well aware that it’s five days past Christmas and in some places the tree is coming down – though it’s probably been up since Halloween – and the decorations being packed away; however, as we are oft reminded in song, there are twelve days of Christmas.  And as blog buddy Steven over at Sooo-this-is-me says:  Just when it is time to be in a Christmas mood, everyone wants to talk about the end of the year or worse, back to work! Let the turkey cool before we jump to the next step, at least let everyone’s drunk uncle/neighbour/brother-in-law sober up before taking down the decorations. So though there may not be twelve days of Christmas posts coming down the WordPress chimney I still intend to keep the season going for a day or two more.

Eaton’s Christmas windows in 1958 – from the Province of Ontario Archives.

There was a time when the big department stores went all out for the Christmas windows.  In Toronto it was the rivalry between Eaton’s and Simpson’s as to who would have the most gathered around their  animated Christmas wonderlands – and be attracted into their equally magical 5th floor Toylands.  For some reason I always gave first prize for windows to Simpson’s – perhaps because they were most readily visible on Queen Street and less likely than Eaton’s to be pseudo-religious.  It seems to me that Eaton’s always had a Nativity scene at the end of their display.  Mind you Eaton’s Toyland with its miniature train ride always won that contest hands down.

The Eaton’s Toyland train – Canadian National’s Continental Limited in miniature – prepares to take children to Santa’s home.  From the Province of Ontario Archives

Unfortunately in the later part of the last and the early part of the current century the “Christmas” windows in large department stores everywhere were given over to displays of designer merchandise exclusive to the store in question.   One of the saddest Yuletide displays I recall seeing was a designer bedding window display at Selfridge’s in London – almost matched by Fortnum and Mason featuring their food halls products linked to a panto in Hammersmith.  Yes I know the chief purposed of the windows is to pull you in and have you buy but at least they could have kept up the pretence of wanting to lighten our spirits as well as our wallets.

I hadn’t been to Toronto over the Christmas season in many years and was overjoyed to see that The Hudson’s Bay Company – which occupies the old Simpson’s Tower – had kept the idea of real Christmas windows on  Queen Street alive and magical.  Apparently it has been the same display for several years but we are assured that it is not through “bah humbug” economy but because it has become a tradition and the good burghers of the Queen’s City and their issue expect this display.  As it was all new to me I was just as pleased as any child there to see them for the first time.  In fact after an early morning look on Saturday I went back twice to take photos and marvel each time at the little details.


The Christmas Windows at the Bay on Queen St. Toronto by The Lazy Photographer. A left click on the photo will take you to more of his great photos.


I know that my friend Vicki was hoping to get down to see them this year and just in case it wasn’t possible I thought I’d post of a few of the photos I took.

(A left click on a frame will lead you a slideshow and individual photos can be enlarged for a closer look.)

Elves in their smart Hudson Bay blanket coats (pay must be good at the North Pole) prepare Santa’s sleigh for the journey.  Several woodland creatures, no doubt woken out of hibernation by the hustle and bustle, keep an eye on the goings-on.

Inside those rather sizeable  workshops – if the first window is to be believed –  it’s a race against the clock. Santa’s list is long and with those sacks of mail yet to be opened bounded to get longer.

Meanwhile on the streets of a Victorian town – Toronto the Good? – folk rush about their last minute Christmas shopping.  The local Hudson’s Bay store is displaying its wares – we now know where those elves got those coats.   And a pastry shop has enough sweets and Christmas goodies to widen a young lady’s eyes – and perhaps her waistline.

Meanwhile in a nearby home mother and father prepare delights and surprises for the children who have fallen asleep while waiting for a glimpse of Santa.   Rather endearingly a family of mice beneath the floor boards are going through the same ritual.


When the long evening is over Santa is welcomed back home by his good lady and all the elves.  Though he’s obviously tired they’ve prepared a feast to celebrate the season, their hard work and his success in making a visit to every deserving child’s home.

I love that the only “merchandising” is those Hudson Bay blanket coats and the Hudson’s Bay store.  A close look at the stock showed that there was a stock of the blankets themselves and such useful winter items as snowshoes.  Again it was those little details that enchanted and engaged.

A lady beside me on that morning visit sighed and said – to me and perhaps her younger self:  It’s just like when I was a child.  And then she added:  And there isn’t a Star Wars figure in sight.  I couldn’t have expressed it any better.

On this day in 1937: The Irish Free State is replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.



Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

4 thoughts on “Windows on Christmas”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a display as grand as these (the old pictures or the new ones.) I do love that a smattering of stores are keeping up the tradition.

    Now, about that Star Wars display…

  2. Now that’s how you write a Christmas post!!! Ok I am back in the mood. When we were kids, one thing that always set us in the mood was receiving the Simpson and Eatons catalogs, the pages and pages of toys, in the country we never saw anything like that it was magical.

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