One of my fondest Christmas memories is my family’s annual trip downtown to see the seasonal window displays at Toronto’s dueling department stores, Eaton’s and Simpsons. The window unveiling was a newsworthy event in 1960s Toronto and crowds gathered on the snowy streets to see the curtains pulled back to reveal merry, mechanized scenes of the North Pole come magically to life. I don’t know exactly when the custom fell out of favour but during the 1980s or ’90s, as the retail landscape changed, those expensive moving displays were put out to pasture in favour of cheaper, static vignettes pitching the season’s must-have toys and gifts.
This year, I was happily surprised to see a lively moving display in the windows of The Bay’s flagship store at Yonge and Queen Streets (former home to Simpsons). The tableaux portray the usual scenes of reindeer, elves and cheery carolers. My favorite scene is the one above and below depicting a family readying the house for the holiday, while under the floorboards a family of mice makes preparations of its own. The little mice are tucked into matchbox beds while mother places a tray on a side table made from a spool of thread, a pencil has been repurposed as a coatrack (lower right).
There’s just a hint of product placement as with the Hudson Bay blanket coats, below. The windows are designed simply to delight and entertain passing shoppers and hopefully beckon them into the store to spend. The displays are drawing sizable crowds with beaming children and laughing grown-ups, definitely a reminder of an earlier, more innocent age.
Best wishes to one and all!