There are trees in this picture. They are my excuse for writing off topic about the animated Christmas* windows on Queen Street between Bay and Yonge.
You’ll notice I didn’t write: at The Bay on Queen Street. That’s because, to me, these will always be the Christmas windows at Simpsons.
For those playing along in other home towns, or joining us after 1991 when Simpsons became The Bay, Simpsons and Eaton’s were once duelling department stores, like Canada’s Macy’s and Gimbels. (Like Tim Horton’s now, Simpson’s did away with its apostrophe in 1978. As another bit of retail trivia, Simpsons was where the kids’ show Today’s Special was filmed, after hours at the store.)
Eaton’s (another name that has left us, as their stores are now Sears) “owned” the Santa Claus Parade (from 1905 to 1982). And I’m sure that Eaton’s own Christmas windows were really very nice (click here [Update: in 2014, this link is now a dead end] for an illuminating series of Archives of Ontario interviews with Robert Barnes, a former general manager of visual merchandising at Eaton’s).
However, my animated-window-heart still belongs to Simpsons, where I toiled (toyled?) in the toy department one Christmas, and later earned my stripes as a young special events coordinator and retail copywriter.
Unlike today, when the hottest window real estate is strictly devoted to merchandising, the showpiece of the Simpsons animated Christmas displays used to be the Queen Street corner window. In 2009, the action is restricted to five windows along Queen.
In my time at the store, the moment the windows were unveiled, the display department began brainstorming about how to out-do themselves next year. Everything was done in-house. And the windows were truly magical, over-stuffed with hidden delights in every corner.
In a pared-down way, this still holds true. No matter what your faith or your age, the windows are a wonder-full Toronto tradition.
Here, you can make out the reflection of Toronto’s Old City Hall. If you come down to see the windows, bring your skates and take a few circuits around the rink just a snow-ball’s throw away (if we had any snow, that is; the probability of which is actually quite slim – as this post from The Intrepid illustrates) in Nathan Phillips Square at New City Hall. It’s an iconic way to celebrate this winter solstice period in Toronto.
(*Their focus on Santa couldn’t make these anything but Christmas windows. However, the Christian holiday is deeply rooted in so many more ancient European and Middle Eastern traditions that perhaps we can say it is almost universal. Happy holidays to you all.)