The Christmas display at Dayton’s Marshall Field’s Macy’s is a Minnesota tradition. This will be the 49th year that Minnesotans wait in the elevators at the flagship store on Nicollet Mall, and head up to the eighth-floor auditorium.

The display is part of the magic of Christmas. Our 10 p.m. executive producer Matt Liddy was talking today about remembering waiting in line with his family when he was a kid, sweating in his snow suit, waiting to see what the Dayton’s elves dreamed up.

The elves don’t to use much imagination today. Paula Moscatelli from Blaine emailed a Good Question yesterday, asking “Why is Macy’s not changing their 8th floor display at Christmas? It has been A Day In The Life of An Elf for years?”

Kamal Bosamia, a Media Relations Manager for Macy’s in Chicago, confirmed that indeed, this year will be the fourth year of the Elf display. When it debuted in 2008, the Star Tribune was cheering for it, pointing out “the last time the show had a ‘fresh’ theme, it worked out pretty well.” Dayton’s Santa Bear became a huge deal after that exhibit debuted in 1986.

The first display was in 1963; “Santa’s Enchanted Forest,” it was called. There’s been a “The Wizard of Oz” show in 1994 and “Nutcracker” in 2007.

Here’s my then 2-year-old son Seth mesmerized by the “Nutcracker” display in 2007:

Seth: Mesmerized by the display

So why are they doing the same show again? I’m still waiting for the official answer from the company, but clearly cost is a concern. Building a new show every year can’t be cheap, and Macy’s doesn’t have to pay a licensing fee like they did for the shows based on other shows, like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Nutcracker.”

But what do you think about it? Do you miss the rotating shows? Does it hurt Macy’s image to repeat? What was your favorite display as a kid?

Share thoughts in the comments, and if you have pictures of you in the display, email them to me and I’ll use them in the 10 p.m. news tonight!

Jason DeRusha

Comments (46)
  1. Ellie says:

    I miss the variety of the shows. I loved when they brought my favorite storybook characters to life, like Polar Express or Harry Potter or Willy Wonka. Now I see no need to go again, cause its the SAME.

  2. Katie says:

    Money, Money, Money!! It makes me sad they don’t change it every year. That was a family tradition we always looked forward to, but now we have stopped going because the magic of having a new theme every year is gone. I wish they would spend some money to switch it up! (Even if they started charging for it)

  3. Sarah Green Toews says:

    We’ve taken my 8 year old every year. Last year, she caught on that it was the same. I went to the downtown exhibit every year as a kid. We walked through, saw santa, ate lunch with grandma at The Fancy Restaraunt.

    This year: we’ll do something else. It’s no fun for anyone to see the same thing over and over and over again. It takes a little of the magic out of Christmas.

    So sad.

  4. TCAnelle says:

    It used to be a yearly tradition, but we stopped going when they started repeating.

  5. Jack Noff says:

    Dayton’s was local, Macy’s is foreign to Minnesota. Rich people suk.

    1. RaeRae says:

      Failing to see what ‘rich’ people have to do with this… Macy’s is an entity, a company, not a person.

    2. Bill Towne says:

      Yeah, those Daytons were working class like the rest of us!

  6. Laurie says:

    I think the 8th floor Christmas show was really a Dayton’s thing. Macy’s just inherited it. Maybe by showing the same thing year after year people will lose interest and Macy’s will let it disappear.

  7. XmasFan says:

    It used to be a tradition for my family to go (usually on a slower evening in the middle of the week) and then we’d eat at the restaurant owned by the store (which was usually not packed the night we went) and then did some shopping to top off the evening. We quit going after year 2 and we won’t be going again until they start rotating again.

    If Macy’s doesn’t believe in tradition, I think I’m done shopping at Macy’s, period.

    1. jackactionhero says:


      Wow, someone is really taking this personally!! Hilarious!!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Marshall Field’s and Dayton’s had a world-class events team with lavish budgets to put on world-class events. That was a key part of their brand identity. They also had decling sales which led to its acquisition.

    Macy’s operates itself and funds events differently. They are more focused on driving sales and value to their investors. And as a public company, they have a responsibilty to do so and are successful at that. To do so, they have to justify every expenditure and how it will impact the bottom line and bring a return on the investment.

    In today’s economy, it can be a challenging connundrum when long-standing traditions are involved, especially for a department store. They have to weigh spending a lot of money on sentiment that doesn’t drive sales or dropping the event completely? Macy’s is keeping the essence of the show that fits their branding and the Santaland concept by financing its events through sponsorships.

    The days of new themes are gone, but the show goes on.

    1. Sierra says:

      Except that those traditions almost always involve shopping, eating and spending money at the store. It might be mostly sentiment, but there are sales involved also.

      Unfortunately, I won’t be going back and spending my money this year. It makes me very sad since this is something I’ve been doing either with my parents or on my own with friends and/or their children for 33 years.

    2. jacki says:

      I agree jennifer, but there is a way to satisfiy most people on both ends. the second year they had it they told me when I called they would “add a scene” or “change it up”. you imagine the surprise when I asked a worker where the “new scene” was. they looked at me confused and of course said “there is no new scene” ; why a person involved directly in the marketing department I contacted in that area would lie, I have no idea. but, if they would have followed through on the “new scene” thing, they could have still kept the majority happy and not spent much money. people coming downtown to shop is profit you know and if they don’t, that too is lost profit. so maybe lets bring both sides together and spend minimally and that way most are happy and get what they want.

  9. Sarah Anderson says:

    I always loved these displays and when my daughter was born we chose this to be a holiday tradition. Unfortunately her first Christmas was in 2007 so every since has been the same theme. We didn’t go at all last year. It’s not very magical if they don’t change things up. I was so sad to see it’s going to be the elves…again. That’s not even a great enough theme to justify repeating.

    1. it's not all about you says:

      I bet it would still be exciting to a 4 year old. Perhaps you may want to put HER interests first for a change?

  10. Scott Simmons says:

    This is a very sad development. Our family has been going downtown to Dayton’s/Macy’s to see Santa, take in the Christmas decorations, and vist the 8th floor display for some 40+ years. We were surprised last year to see the same display. Now you’re saying that it will be three years in a row. Is this the brainchild of some overcompensated marketing genius?

    This custome won’t be returning. And… maybe you can break it to my kids that the “magic” has died.


  11. Tammy says:

    Sadly after 43 years of going to the exhibit and taking my children to it since they were babies; last year after the third year of the same display we did not go. Therefore no downtown businesses got mine, my mother’s or my brother’s business last holiday season. To me is it is the sad end of an era and somewhat lazy marketing on Macy’s part. Going to see the 8th floor audtorium display was a tradition and part of the excitement of the holiday season for many young and old. Many famililies would have breakfast or lunch at the store or nearby restuarants and make a day of shopping downtown.

  12. Darla Cloud says:

    Why give a Holiday gift to the community if Macy’s is just going to do a re-gift.
    Macy’s for the little ones give up some profits after all without the true holiday believers the elves wouldn’t even exist.

  13. Lindsay says:

    Everyone keeps talking about the money….but doesn’t Macy still do the big store front windows in New York every year and spend bunches of money to do so? So why can’t they spend some of that money here?

    1. dane says:

      Totally agree. I’ve said that the last few years. Or at least ship some of their old displays here for the 8th floor. My guess is Macy’s moves out of downtown soon anyway.

    2. T says:

      Spending money in a New York store is more an investment than in a Midwest city like Minnesota,i once was told.
      So,of course they do fancy window displays there.
      Sad,that chain type stores can’t be consistent to all consumers in various cities.
      I dislike,one store to the next per city is so different.

  14. I'm Just Sayin'... says:

    They have a holiday display? Huhn!

  15. Sad news! says:

    I guess Macy’s doesn’t want me to buy a box of gingerbread cookies, pay for my picture with Santa, and eat lunch in their restaurant this year. Bad news for Minneapolis this holiday season!

  16. pdegross says:

    my family and i have gone to 8th floor for more than 40 years and than would go to lunch downtown and paid for parking .this year i don’t think we will go .if it’s a money thing why don’t they put out a donations cup ……

  17. What Next? says:

    Loved the great unwashed that had to show their faces during the 10:00 news!

  18. Jennifer says:

    Macy’s is not anywhere near what Dayton’s/Marshall Field was. Macy’s hoped to keep the Dayton shoppers (mints anyone?) but eliminated what Dayton’s stood for and was known for (bye bye Santa Bear). Dayton’s was a classy, upper-end store, Macy’s just can’t come to a Dayton’s level. Support Herberger’s, a “local” (upper midwest ) store. Or Yonkers (great place to shop) I was in Macy’s once after they took over Dayton slots in malls. Once was enough.

  19. Beth Tantanella-Gamache says:

    Rather than recycle the same theme every year just fold up the tent. I have been attending this with my kids since they were babies. I have been taking my nieces and nephews since they were young and now they take their children. How much is this actually saving Macy’s? I will be curious to see if attendance drops. We probably won’t go this year.

  20. Danielle says:

    My mom and I have been going every year since I was a little girl and we are really disappointed that they are having the same theme yet again!! It makes it not even worth going! I look forward to this every year – not so much anymore. 🙁

  21. jackactionhero says:

    I lived in MN for 35 years and never even knew it was happening and won’t miss it this year either. I do not understand the draw to events like this to begin with.

    1. jacki says:

      I take it you have no kids and if you do, what a boring person!!! and jackactionhero, if you think it’s so hillarious, why waste your time coming to this site. most people enjoy it very much and wouldn’t waste their time at a site that they find stupid. very strange I must say

  22. jill says:

    we’ve gone every year for the last 30 until the last few years when I heard it was a repeat. I would be curious to see what the numbers say- has the display seen a decline in visitors? Macy’s isn’t dumb- if the display visitors (and their sales) have not taken a hit with the repeat, then why refresh every year? Unfortunately, ‘tradition’ does not pay the bills. The 50th year next year might also have had an impact. They will probably be expected to do something special next year, so why do something new this year too?
    I miss the tradition, but I also appreciate well-priced clothes. I’m not willing to pay more for my clothes to compensate for a new display every year. Just call me scrooge. = )

  23. Michelle says:

    As so many have already said, going downtown to Dayton’s has been my family tradition for as long as I can remember. We will not attend this repeat show and will no longer be shopping at Macy’s, because they clearly don’t understand the magical gift this has been to Minneapolis.

  24. Autumn Ness says:

    We swore last year we wouldn’t haul everyone downtown if the display was the same, so we have to make good. what a shame!

    1. Buddy says:

      I am sure Macys will close thier doors if you don’t go………

  25. jackactionhero says:

    It’s a store display. Who cares? Do you not have hobbies?

  26. Holy crimmoli says:

    Ha Ha Ha – apparently, Jackactionhero, the display will now be vacant because, according to the poll, over 49% of the people polled have NEVER attended. So if the rest of these folks don’t go, the crowds will be down and maybe it’s time for us to check it out for the first time.

  27. userdude says:

    “The elves don’t to use much imagination today.” Stellar writing and editing as usual, guys.

  28. Buddy says:

    Our country is at war in two different places in the world, the U S economy is in the tank, not to mention the high unemployment, and people are upset because Macys didn’t change their Christmas display? Unbelievable………..

    1. AP says:

      Why is that unbelievable? It’s times like these that people look to comforting diversions from ugly realities.

      If everyone just sat around constantly pining about the ills of the world everyone would eventually put a gun to their heads.

      God forbid some folks want to feel good once in awhile.

  29. klmore says:

    It is unfortunate that Macy’s is deciding to keep the same display yet again. It was my family’s tradition for more than 40 years to go downtown the day after Thanksgiving to see the new display. We always ended up doing some Christmas shopping and going to lunch. Maybe this would be a good time for another retailer to “cash” in on this idea and make it their own (hint hint Target). To Macy’s I say I would gladly have paid a modest donation to keep it “fresh”.

  30. BB says:

    I was very upset in 2009 when they reused the same display. Now, its sad but I have moved on. My last visit was 2008, and I will not be going back until something new shows up.

  31. caitie says:

    I have been going to the shows for 40+ years, and I have loved them….but to see the same display over and over and over again is just not interesting. Life of an elf……ick….it was insipid even when it was first shown and now 4 years on I just CANT do it again……… there were so many lovely and wonderful shows….WHY OH WHY cant they bring in another one. My family and I all do christmas shopping, go out for lunch and spend lots of $$$ at Macys on our ‘christmas day out’. This year we shall be boycotting Macys and spending the get together at the “Grand Meander’ where there are at least new things to SEE and DO!!!
    Ack, shame on you Macys for not changing the display, you have lost LOYAL customers who expect a bit more out of you……. you spend Thousands changing the window displays of which people walk on by, but you have a built in customer base who would gladly go to the 8th floor if only you would take the effort to switch it up a bit……. Naughty Macys…. you will not be getting anything from Santa this year ( or the $$$$) we spend at your store.

  32. Fond Memories says:

    We too have gone every year since I was a child. We have brought our children, who are old enough to know that it was repeating instead of having new shows. We also will be ending our tradition. Crisp cold nights, walking into Daytons, Marshall Fields, and now Macy’s. The store all decorated for the holidays, beautiful and grand. Not just any department store, the fancy one downtown, what a treat. Taking those elevators up to the 8th floor. And when those doors opened, and you walked down that long hallway, the overwhelming smell of gingerbread filled the air. And when you got close, and could see and hear the lights though those grand doors! was something special! Afterwards you could visit Santa, and get a cookie, and a book of that years story. Then some holiday shopping and dinner. What an evening it was….

  33. Ashley says:

    I wish they would change the theme we haven’t gone for the last 2 years because it has been the same. We won’t be going this year either because its the same. I get that it costs money to change the theme every year so change it every two years or something.

  34. Jen Zaskier says:

    CHANGE IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I”M PLANNING NOT TO GO IF YOU DON’T CHANGE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. Eva Coleman says:

    People also need to understand that the people that put the show together are taking a hit in the business pocket due to the repeat shows! I know someone that has worked on this show for the last 16-17 years. Because of this I have made a tradition with my kids going to the show also, but haven’t gone the last couple of years because it is a repeat. I think a donation bucket would be a great idea and it would help keep the talented people that you have on staff for the show!