“Ho ho ho! No more days to go! Don’t forget your Metro card, cash, comfy shoes and sack of gifts. And pants. Don’t forget your pants.”
Yesterday I was awoken with this lovely tweet from SantaCon himself. I rolled out of bed, sliding into the handcrafted, felt Christmas-tree dress that I managed to recycle my from sister’s college years. As I poked my head outside of my townhouse window I saw that my backyard was decked with jolly college Santas ready to escape the pressures of finals and emerge into a land of drunken, pub-crawling, Kris Kringle impersonators.
The Takeover of Santa
You may be wondering: What in the world is SantaCon?
SantaCon is a jovial gathering of attendees dressed in Christmas-themed attire that take over cities worldwide crawling from pub to pub, singing carols (some naughty and some nice), while jiggling their big fat bellies along the way. Yesterday New York City quickly turned into a winter wonderland with thousands of white-bearded, red-suited attendees spreading cheer and drinking beer from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
“At a time when we are all worried about employment, how to take care of our kids, and life without incandescent bulbs, all these folks can do to celebrate the season is to dress up in Santa suits and make asses of themselves? Brilliant,” wrote Joe Delbuono, reporter for the Brooklyn Daily.
Attendees who dare to spike their eggnog must be of age, but the event is not only for binge-drinking young adults. The SantaCon website states, “Some SantaCons are family friendly, some cater to children, some raise money for good causes and some will even let you bring your dog (dressed as Santa of course)!”
This event may seem a bit un-sensible and even un-ethical to some, but being a SantaCon novice I quickly noticed that the festivities brought the city together in a rowdy but unbelievably jolly manner. No fights were seen, no tears were shed, and no face bore a frown.
SantaCon dates back to 1994 in San Francisco: it was sponsored by The San Francisco Society. It was inspired by a group called The Suicide Club, a Danish political group, famous for mobbing a Copenhagen department store disguised in Santa costumes days before Christmas.
Today Santa’s sleigh has flown through the world with 226 SantaCon locations in 32 countries, from Bristol to Brussels and Paris to Hong Kong.
New York or North Pole?
But let’s be serious: New York City is the center of the world, and yesterday the city was drenched in red with sparks of green, gold, and white intertwined. Legal Fairfield University students were sure not to miss out on the festivities and packed the Metro-North Railroad with their bottles of beer and cheap Party City Santa suits.
SantaCon started at ten in the morning in two locations: The North Cove Marina in Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn. The event is completely spontaneous, with details for the starting location not released until the night before by the popular social network, Twitter.
“At first it was questionable because no one was sure where to start, but it was so much fun with Santas on every corner you turned,” stated Adrianna Montano ’12. “Next time I’m going to make sure I know where I’m going instead of waiting on Twitter announcements.”
Throughout the day Twitter directed Santas to a beer garden on the top floor of the Seaport, City Hall “to protest unethical treatment of reindeer,” The New York Public Library to sing naughty carols from Santa’s carol book (posted on santacon.com), to District 36 for a Santa dance party, Times Square, and finally the East Village – with after-parties to follow.
Caitlin Fitzpatrick ’12 could not complain. “I can’t ask for more organization because it was amazing how many Santa costumes showed up almost entirely because of social media.”
Stephanie Luciano ’12 didn’t make good use out of Santa’s tweets. “I would do it again but I would keep myself more organized,” she stated. “We should’ve had a plan B, traced out a map for our own bar crawl. Once you get into the city there’s so many places to go but if you don’t know where to go you’re lost – period.”
Jolly Spirits Prance the Streets
As I arrived at the North Pole – otherwise known as New York City – with a group of Santas, presents, elves, and Christmas trees, I looked around Grand Central, which was full of those alike who were singing and dancing, with large, contagious smiles spread across their faces. Since I grew up in a small-beach side town in Massachusetts where everyone knows everyone and skyscrapers can only be seen if one ventures into Boston, going into the Big Apple is typically an overwhelming experience, but never have I seen so much spirit in such an intimidating location.
A group of red-suited partygoers appeared on every corner I turned, and we instantly acknowledged one another as if we were all good old childhood friends. In actuality we were strangers looking to stir up some holiday spirit in a non-traditional manner.
“Everyone was so nice to each other in the city,” Luciano recalled. “Usually you walk around and people don’t say much to each other, everyone has an agenda, but yesterday everyone was dressed like Santa just saying hi to each other. Smiles on their faces. It was easy to make new friends.”
As our group of cheerful Fairfield students pranced through the streets of the city we were exposed to all sorts of Christmas attire, from traditional red-suited attendees to Buddy the Elf impersonators.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the representation of holidays other then Christmas. I saw a few people in Hanukah gear, which is respectful and sparked conversation,” Fitzpatrick said. “One girl in the bathroom of a bar approached me to tell me that despite her excellent costume she was not an actual Rockette. I pretended to be surprised…”
Naughty or Nice?
Crime is a constant concern for the NYPD especially when Santas full of Red Bull vodka and shots of tequila are taking over the city.
“Well, you know those elves: a little bit of ‘nog and a whole lot of trouble,” wrote DelBuono.
Extra troops were deployed for the event, but luckily the drunken attendees all managed to stay on the good list and no one received coal during the rowdy celebration.
Montano had one negative experience on her sleigh-ride home. “There was a drunk guy on the train who had a Santa hat on, and thought it was ok to hit on me and pretend he knew me,” she said. “He got kicked off the train.”
Organizers of the event made sure to not use it as just a way to get attendees to blow their Christmas funds on booze and cigarettes, but instead many bars donated a portion of their profits to Toys for Tots, and encouraged Santas to bring non-perishable foods for donation to those in need.
Beyond NYC
SantaCon arrives in various cities bringing strangers together, escaping from their crabby co-workers, complicated relationships, and the un-avoidable stress of the holidays to simply be merry.
December 10th also marked the 5K Santa Fun Run in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where 1,600 athletic Santas hit the pavement. SantaCon also took place in London, England, and San Francisco, where attendees attempted to make the world record for most naked Santas.
In London, England, thousands of Santas gathered in Trafalgar Square as the Father of Christmas brought cheer to the crowd, handing out gifts and warming the hearts of attendees with carols.
The Big Apple may have drawn crowds upon crowds of Old Saint Nick party-goers through social media, but the Guinness World Record was set in 2007 in Ulster, Ireland, with 13,000 Santas.
So now the countdown begins—369 days until Santas rush the city for SantaCon 2012.
“I’ll definitely be back next year,” said Nasrallah.

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