There was great rivalry between the two big department stores in Toronto when I was a child. Eaton's and Simpson's stood across from each other, Eaton's on the North East side of Queen and Yonge, Simpson's on the South East. My first credit card was from Simpson's (account number 8T362606 - now how come I can remember that but not the combination to the lock at work?)At no time of the year was that rivalry keener than Christmas.
Eaton's had the yearly Santa Claus Parade and Santa's radio broadcast on CFRB every night at six o'clock. So everyone knew that the real Santa was at Eaton's - my mother explained that the one at Simpson's was his cousin who was giving him a hand because there were so many children to see, you had to hand it to Isabella for quick thinking. I recall I always covered both stores just in case.
They both had their Toyland but for me Eaton's won on that one hands down. Oh yeah Simpson's had a talking Rudolph and a fish pond but Eaton's had Punkinhead the carrot topped bear and a miniature train ride through the North Pole. Fishing I wasn't big on but trains.. well where's the choice? And Punkinhead - I even had a Punkinhead stuffed bear. Wish I knew where that bear was today, they tell me it would be worth something - sic transit orso.
But where Simpson's always came out on top where their Christmas windows, particularly the one at the Queen-Yonge corner. They were wonders of mechanical whirligigs, flying creatures, hard-working elves and sparkling new fallen snow - so different from the gray slush we stood in with nose pressed against glass to see Santa's workshop or a Victorian Christmas in old Toronto. Eaton's were further up on Yonge St and just didn't seem to have the same magic. Maybe it was that extra trudge in the slush or just that first seen was first wonder.
In our previous home in Ottawa that tradition had disappeared with the demise of downtown department stores and the advent of malls but fortunately in most big cities it still survives. I recall Marshall Fields windows when we lived in Chicago and Ogilivy's in Montreal when I lived there. Last year I got to London in time to see them at Fortnum and Mason and this year it was Galeria Kaufhof on the Marienplatz in Munich.
28 dicembre - Strage degli innocenti