Fun facts about Santa Claus parades across Canada

Mr. and Mrs. Claus in front of the float that will be part of the Toronto Parade. (Fred Lum/Globe and Mail)

Before making his list and checking it twice, Santa's most important duty lies in inspiring children in annual Santa Claus parades across Canada.

The parade is considered the unofficial start to the holiday season for kids, their parents and frantic shoppers.

"Extensive research commissioned by the [Toronto] Parade revealed that 90% of Ontarians believe that The Santa Claus parade signals the start of the Christmas season," says Peter Beresford, the Santa Claus Parade president."The Santa Claus Parade is one of the most cherished holiday traditions and continues to excite and inspire fans every year."

Santa Claus claims that the best part of being a part of this century-old tradition is "the sight of miles of bodies and being able to talk to everyone on the streets."

Also see: Five reasons to get started on your holiday shopping now

Here are some fun facts about Santa Claus parades across Canada:

Toronto

  • On Nov. 18, the Toronto Parade is celebrating its 108th year.
  • Mrs. Claus made her first appearance in the Santa Claus parade last year, with her own float leading the way for Santa. When asked why it took her so long to participate in the parade, she says, "There is so much I need to do to get ready for Christmas and my focus was getting Santa ready.... I was blown away by the smiling faces and I love my float."
  • Four children aged 8-10 will win a spot on Mrs. Claus' float for the first time this year. Parents are encouraged to help their kids enter to win online.
  • There will be a One Direction float!
  • The Grey Cup is making an appearance along the route for the first time.
  • For the first time ever, Santa Claus is giving children of all ages a chance to become one of his special helpers for the Parade by making a donation, with the opportunity to have their name displayed on a special float.
  • The Parade has expanded the Red Nose Drive this year. Red noses will be for sale at 30 Canadian Tire stores across the GTA in support of their Jumpstart program, which helps enroll needy children in sport or recreation activities.
  • Celebrity clowns are business professionals from within the community who dress as clowns and march in the Parade.  Each clown donates $1,200 to the Parade (The Toronto Parade is privately funded) and this year, the clown is celebrating its 29th anniversary.
  • Over 3,000 people volunteer to make the Parade happen.
  • Santa made his first official visit to Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 2 in 1905. The original parade was a "one man show" with Santa as the only attraction.
  • In 1995 the Toronto Santa Claus Parade became the world's largest Christmas parade and the longest running children's parade in the world.

Winnipeg

  • This year's parade will be held on Nov. 17.
  • Eaton's Department Store started the parade in 1909 after the huge success of the Toronto Parade in 1905.
  • The Parade celebrates its 103rd anniversary this year.
  • Due to rising costs, Eaton's held the last Parade in 1964. Captain George Smith of the East Kildonan fire department bought the Parade for $1.50.
  • Canada Post volunteers collect letters to Santa along the route.
  • A free performance by Camerata Nova will be held at the Manitoba Hydro Place on Parade Day, featuring Christmas classics.

Also see: How to do Christmas as a single parent

Montreal

  • This year's parade will be held on Nov. 17.
  • Better known as the Défilé du Père Noël, the Parade has been an annual tradition since 1925.
  • In 1969, citing the FLQ bomb threats, Eaton's management decided to permanently cancel the Montreal parade.
  • In 1995, more than 27 years after the cancellation, business people in downtown Montreal wanted to revive the parade. Destination centre-ville took up the torch to bring the parade back to Sainte Catherine Street West.
  • It takes an average of 1,000 hours for Santa's team to create a large parade float and the average float weighs 3,000 kilograms.
  • About 1,000 people appear in the Parade.
  • More than 500 costumes and 200 props were produced for the 2011 Parade.
  • More than 95 radio transmitters are needed to make the Parade run smoothly.

Also see: Healthier Christmas dinners

St. John's, Newfoundland

  • This year's parade is taking place on Nov. 25.
  • The theme of this year's parade is "A Cartoon Christmas".
  • The Downtown Christmas Parade is the largest annual event in the province.
  • Santa is arriving to St. John's in a special reindeer chopper this year.
  • The Parade has the largest food drive in the province, collecting more than 20,000 pounds of food and close to $20,000 along the parade route.

Ottawa

  • This year's parade is taking place on Nov. 17.
  • Officially called the Help Santa Toy Parade, the event is unique in which firefighters march along the route to collect donations for less-fortunate children.
  • The Parade has been a tradition in Ottawa for more than 40 years.
  • In 2009, the Parade was held for the first time at night as a parade of lights. This year however, it is switching back to daytime.