Santa Claus made his grand return to the streets of Ottawa, bringing the snow with him.

The snowfall served as a backdrop for a scaled-down version of the Help Santa Toy Parade Saturday morning in downtown Ottawa, after last year's event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It’s really special and it feels like a safe get together to celebrate the holidays," said Alicia McCarthy, who watched the parade in the Glebe with her children and friends from out of town.

Her daughter, Georgie, had one goal for the day.

"Give him a wish list," she said, holding up her letter for Santa.

Initially, mini parades were planned for Kanata, downtown and Orleans, but the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Sssociation decided to hold just one following a deadly crash at the Santa Claus parade in Wisconsin last month that killed six people and injured dozens.

"It changed the way we planned things and we managed with city services, Ottawa Police Services to come up with a safe and secure plan for our parade participants but also the parade watchers," said Bob Rainboth, co-chair of the Help Santa Toy Parade. 

Another change from years past, no toy collections along the parade route. Instead, organizers asked the public to drop toys off at local fire stations.

Keeping with a COVID-safe Christmas, parade participants practiced physical distancing while families along the route wore face masks.

"It’s nice to have the kids out and enjoying some of what Ottawa is known for," said one parent. "Great Christmas and great winters."

"Our children, they are so happy to be here to see Santa,” said another parent. 

While the parade was much smaller than years past, the spirit of the holidays came alive in the capital.

"It’s the first snowfall of the year so it’s so beautiful,” said Meagan Anderson. "It makes it festive, makes us feel like we’re up in the North Pole with Santa.”

New toy donations can be dropped off at all city of Ottawa fire stations, while cash donations can be made at Toys will be donated to Toy Mountain.