An Ode to the Eaton Family
Eaton’s – is a name that has been uttered by Torontonians every Christmas for over a century now. Even though the context of the name has changed in that century it is still a powerful and important part of Christmas in this city. If you say “Eaton’s” to my 19 year old sister she will automatically think of the mall in the downtown core. If you say “Eaton’s” to me I will think of the now defunct department store and the statue of Timothy Eaton that sits in the Royal Ontario Museum. If you say “Eaton’s” to my mother she will tell you about the Eaton’s department store holiday windows. Lastly, if you say “Eaton’s” to any of my grandparents they will tell you about the highly anticipated Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue.
For each generation Eaton’s means something completely different. Eaton’s was once one of Canada’s most iconic brands. In fact the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue is considered one of the most iconic symbols in Canadian culture. For my graduation gift my friend Sook-Ling bought me a vintage Eaton’s Catalogue and I was ecstatic and over the roof that she had got it for me. Furthermore, the name Eaton’s in this city spans far beyond the Toronto Eaton Centre and is associated with College Park (College and Yonge), which was once an Eaton’s, and Eatonville, a neighbourhood in Etobicoke, that has direct connections to the Eaton family.
However, one thing is clear and that is that the name Eaton’s is one that will forever be a part of Christmas in Toronto. Even though the reason and meaning in which we say the name has changed, it is still a major part of Christmas in this city. If I could turn your attention below I will explain to you how the name Eaton’s has been associated with Christmas in Toronto for over a century.
The Eaton’s and Christmas
Let’s start with the annual Santa Claus Parade which was started by the Eaton’s. The parade, which made its debut in 1905 as the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade, began with only one attraction - Jolly old St. Nick himself. Today the parade has grown to become one of the biggest parades in North America. In the early 80’s the Eaton’s withdrew its sponsorship, but many businesses knew the importance and tradition of this parade to the city that they couldn’t let it go. If it wasn’t for the Eaton’s the Santa Claus Parade that we all love would not exist.
The Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue is another Christmas memory many Torontonians and Canadians have. The first Christmas catalogue was released in 1897 and became one of the most anticipated catalogues ever. Archive Ontario even said that the arrival of the catalogue was the official start of Christmas. My grandmother has even told me stories about how neighbours would dedicate whole nights to reading the catalogue, how children would fight over who got to look at it first and how the housewives in the area would gather in a book club format to discuss the catalogue and potential gift ideas. Many even called the book the Family bible. That is how big this Christmas catalogue was. In fact, in book The Hockey Sweater the main character looks in an Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue to show his mother the Montreal Canadiens jersey he wants.
Next is the Eaton’s holiday window. Each year Eaton’s would have the most marvelous window spectacle in all of Toronto. The way it was unveiled and the detail that went into it was very much like how Holt Renfrew executes its windows today. People would crowd around the sidewalk just to get a glimpse of the holiday wonder that Eaton’s had put on display.
Finally, the current generation and future ones to come will associate the Eaton’s name with one of Toronto’s largest shopping malls, which gets so packed in the weeks leading up to Christmas that you can barely move.
No matter how you look at it the name Eaton’s has a long history and relation to Christmas in Toronto. I felt it was only appropriate to honour the name of such a legendary and iconic family.
That is Why I Love Christmas In Toronto.
- College Park
- Holt Renfrew
- The Royal Ontario Museum
- The Santa Claus Parade
- Timothy Eaton Statue
- Toronto Eaton Centre Part 1 and Part 2
Sources and Images