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The Story of

Santa in Oshawa

By Will McGuirk

Although one can’t be sure he ever worked on Santa’s whip, it is true that Oshawa’s Col Sam, founder of GM Canada, did build and repair sleighs before he hit upon the idea of cars. So knowing there would be a pair of skilled hands available for any unforeseen mishaps it would have been, one can imagine, an easy decision for the big man with the big white beard to schedule a visit to the Great City of Oshawa when requested as he was over 75 years ago by Les Eagelson of the Oshawa Business Mens’ Association.


The debut Santa Claus parade, welcomed by then-mayor Frank McCallum, took place beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29, 1947. An article on the front page of the Daily Times-Gazette prepares the children of Oshawa and District for a parade of over 350 participants "featuring gnomes, faeries, and toy animals", as well as "the gay and marching music of six bands". An advertisement for the parade makes mention of "Calithumpians” so one can assume the very first procession through the downtown was a raucous affair.

The parade route was billed as three miles long, starting at Simcoe South School, then north past the armouries to William Street, east to Ritson, south to King and west to Church Street before circling back to Simcoe and the Armouries via Brock Street.


The first parade was a success and work began on the next year’s floats in the summer of ‘48.  As noted in the same newspaper the following year, the second Santa Claus Parade included 14 floats on General Motors trailers wired for sound and drawn by groups of young boys. Five bands as well as up to 40 clowns would be part of the procession. Over 50,000 were expected to line the route.


Post-parade Santa set up shop with his elfin helpers at the Armouries. Children of all ages could meet with him and, afterwards, Santa visited with children at the Oshawa General Hospital and the Children's Aid Centre.


After a decade the parade took a twenty-year break and it wasn't until 1977 when the Downtown Square Merchants Association revitalized the parade beginning at City Hall on Queen St. at 1 p.m. and travelling along King down Mary and back to City Hall via Athol.


There were various options for future parades presented including running one year from Memorial Park along Simcoe St. to Alexandra Park. But the city finally settled on including the storage and gathering options at the new Oshawa Centre and the parade runs as it does this year beginning at King and Gibbons running along King St. up Simcoe and then back along Bond St.  It is unclear what year the decision was made to convert the daytime parade to an evening “parade of lights,” but it appears that the decision came about some time in the early 2000’s.  The parade has remained a bright and sparkling evening celebration ever since and is currently operated by the folks at Oshawa Tourism, having recently been passed along from a team of dedicated volunteers who were its stewards and operators for around a decade and a half.



Now, over seventy-five years later Santa is still taking the time to drop in on Oshawa. There is no record of repairs needed to his sled over the decades but should there ever be some fixing up required, it's a given someone in Oshawa could line up a rail or two for Jolly Old St. Nick!

Interested in entering a float/entry into the 2024 parade?

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