Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photo: Eaton's Racist Christmas Display in 1955

Eaton's window, Christmas, 1955

Oh boy. So. According to the Archives of Ontario, Eaton's was pretty hesitant to start using religious imagery in their famous Christmas window displays. At first, they played it safe, sticking with Santa Claus and toys and gifts, worried that Christian church leaders would be offended if the department store mixed Jesus with commercialism. But in 1945, they were feeling ballsy: they added some religiously-themed Christmas carols to the mix, playing them over a loud speaker to accompany their displays. It was a hit. Church leaders, far from being upset, actively encouraged their congregations to head down to Yonge and Queen. After that, it was open season. There were nativity scenes and baby Jesuses all over the place.

And so it was that in 1955, with their fears of religious insensitivity far behind them, T. Eaton & Co. decided to decorate their windows with scenes of what it would have been like if other cultures around the world had been witness to the Christmas star. There were Africans in a thatched-hut village, Inuit in the frozen north and, dropping to their knees in prayer, aboriginals outside their tee-pees. (Also, for some reason, Dutch people.)

The Archives of Ontario have photos of each of them (Africans here, Inuit here and the Dutch here) as part of a brief history of Eaton's Christmas displays, which you can find here.


  1. I worked for them for a little over 20 years, until the bankruptcy, i was the last to walk out of yorkdale. Given the time frame of the windows I'm not surprised, it was the nature of the times. by the late 60's it would be back to purely commercial displays. the link to the archives was cool though. good thing the archives got donated long before the liquidators got their paws on things or it would all be in private hands and whatever didn't sell would have been trashed

  2. the dutch thing is pretty funny actually
    WTF was that about