Homes and Antiques Magazine - - HERITAGE -


Le Bon Marché (right) claims to be one of the first depart­ment stores in France to dress its win­dows for Christ­mas. Its first dis­play was in 1893 and por­trayed ice skaters on a frozen pond. Later, in 1909, me­chan­i­cal dolls re-en­acted Robert Peary’s ex­pe­di­tion to the North Pole and fea­tured a re­cre­ation of the North­ern Lights and float­ing ice­bergs.


Ac­cord­ing to his­to­rian Ju­dith Flan­ders, by the 1870s, the kon­di­torei (sweet shops) of Ber­lin had be­gun plac­ing sugar mod­els of nearby streets and, on a less fes­tive theme, scenes from bat­tles, in their win­dows. News­pa­pers pro­moted the most beau­ti­ful dis­plays – a tra­di­tion that has con­tin­ued to­day, across the world.


Saks Fifth Av­enue (right) staged the first ‘un­veil­ing’ of its sea­sonal win­dow dis­play in 1914 – an event thought to be the first of its kind. The store used hy­draulic lifts be­neath the win­dows, which al­lowed ar­ti­sans to work out of pub­lic view. The store has con­tin­ued its tra­di­tion of grand un­veil­ings and to­day live streams the launch on its web­site.


In 1947, Steiff was com­mis­sioned by La Mai­son Ogilvy to cre­ate two an­i­mated scenes for its win­dow dis­plays – The Mill in the For­est and The En­chanted Vil­lage. They were so pop­u­lar that, each year, the store would al­ter­nate be­tween the two. Af­ter be­ing ex­hib­ited for 70 years, this year they have been put on per­ma­nent dis­play at a lo­cal mu­seum.


The fes­tive win­dows of Myer depart­ment store are the most pop­u­lar in Aus­tralia, draw­ing crowds of over one mil­lion. Its very first theme – in De­cem­ber 1956 – was Santa and the Olympics, and was spe­cially de­signed to tie in with the Sum­mer Olympics which, that year, were held in Mel­bourne.

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