There was something very special and magical about growing up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the 1960’s and 1970’s thanks to the wonderful high end retailers of the day; Simpson’s and Eaton’s which were located in the heart of the city just steps away from City Hall. The city came alive with magic and wonderment during the holidays, embracing such good will and turning itself into a Christmas Wonderland. The streets were lined with twinkle lights, Christmas trees, and decorations. Christmas music played on every street corner, skaters skated at the ice rink in front of City Hall and I can still smell roasted chestnuts, fresh popcorn and hot chocolate sold on the streets by vendors from their vintage carts.
The magic happened in front of the retailers windows! Such elaborate motion displays, one window was nicer than the other and I recall young children (including myself) hands and nose pressed to the glass stuck in place for hours gazing and mesmerized by the glorious displays before us. It wasn’t Christmas without a visit to their store fronts. I recall schools planning field trips for some Christmas magic, children lined up for hours waiting to tell Santa their wishes at the most beautifully decorated Santa’s Toyshop with Santa in the middle on his throne. The Toyshop was one dedicated floor at Simpsons, spanning one city block ~ HUGE!! I recall getting off the elevator at Simpson’s with my great uncle Peter the first time I met Santa, I was in awe, speechless and dumbfounded all in one. I still remember how wonderful I felt that I was actually meeting the ‘real’ Santa Claus and that his elves made all those wonderful toys before my eyes. My uncle was a lifer at Simpson’s and unknown to me at the time, when Santa called me by name… OMG, it was him; how else could he have known who I was!?! He even presented me with this beautiful letter with my name on it which I cherished for years. I don’t know what became of that letter, but the magnitude of that day has stayed with me all these years; I must have been 4 or 5 at the time.
Unfortunately, we don’t see these types of displays and devotion to Christmas anymore, seems to have been taking over by consumerism. Each year I would find myself in downtown Toronto trying to recapture that special and very important part of my youth and sadly, it is sparse or difficult to find. Sure you can find Christmas lights here and there and retailers promoting national brand products but the magic seems to be gone.
It was last Christmas we discovered the Toronto Christmas Market located in the famed Distillery District on 13 acres of pedestrian only streets and all I can say is WOW! Was it impressive? YES! But it didn’t trump my childhood memories, close though!
Toronto’s Distillery District is famed for its Victorian Industrial Architecture. Celebrating their 6th Annual Christmas Market, this is definitely a family tradition for all ages, transforms into an exceptionally beautiful Christmas village. Streets are lined with gingerbread houses where vendors sell the most unique holiday gifts and products from all over the world under a fabulous canopy of lights. Including food vendors tantalizing its visitors with the most unique foods, where else was I going to try chocolate covered bacon and my new favourite sipping chocolate at one of their many outdoor hospitality lounges (see video and recipe under our recipe tab).
The Toronto Christmas Market boasts a 56 foot tree with thousands of lights, a romantic Ferris Wheel, carolers dressed in Victorian costumes, dance and sing along stages performances, choirs and so much more and of course a photo op with Ole St Nick himself! Do enjoy this short video production for a taste of our 2014 experience.