By the 1880s the arrival of Santa Claus marked the opening of the holiday shopping season in Omaha department stores. The Hayden Brothers store sponsored an annual Christmas parade that attracted hundreds of children, who lined the streets of Omaha to watch Santa ride past and scramble after the candy he threw. Hayden delivery wagons displaying holiday items from the various departments of the store followed Santa’s tally-ho coach.
The Omaha World-Herald described the 1893 procession on December 12: “It was indeed a merry procession which left the main entrance to Omaha’s big store yesterday promptly at noon, and headed by an American Indian of swarthy complexion, commenced a journey through the principal business and residence streets of the city. In anticipation of this annual event crowds of people, both young and old, thronged the street and completely blockaded the entrance long before the time announced for His Majesty’s coming.
“A band of music struck up a lively air, and in a moment more the jingling of bells and the tooting of horns could be heard. The little boys and girls were for the time silenced. What a look of expectancy! Now it’s all excitement, Santa is taking his seat on the tally-ho, and the newspaper men are being seated within.
“With the cracking of whips and the tooting of horns, the band playing its liveliest, he is off, followed by every delivery wagon in the service of Hayden Bros. each one decorated for the occasion and loaded down with drums, and dolls and sleds and an endless variety of things to gladden the hearts of the little ones. As we rattle along over the pavement, crowds of excited youngsters follow close in our wake, so close in fact that frequently it was necessary to stop lest some would be crushed under the wheels.
“Now old Kris Kringle is standing surveying first one side, then the other, then with great enjoyment, for he likes good little children, he reaches down and from the depths of a huge box he gathers his arms full of boxes of candy. What a scrambling. He is throwing them first here and then there. Here is a pile of boys on this side, yes, there is a girl or two in the bunch . . . . At the Lake street school the children were wild with delight and we will venture that not more than one-third were in school in time yesterday afternoon. The windows all along the way were filled with beaming faces and many a box of candy was thrown to them.
“In the evening, at Hayden Bros’., Santa Claus held his reception. It was a glorious success. The fourth floor is his storehouse, and here can be seen an endless variety of everything for both old and young.”