SantaCon, Anyone?


Santas galore! Click photo for more information.

Yesterday my sister-in-law and I hopped a train into New York City. Like many suburbanites, we occasionally flock to the city for a mini-escape. We’d anticipated a crowded ride, with the sunny forecast and it being two weeks before Christmas. We didn’t expect so many our fellow passengers to be wearing Santa suits, however. That’s when my SantaCon education began.

SantaCon, for those of you who have been living under a rock like me, is a worldwide pub crawl that originated in San Francisco in 1994. Currently, this celebration takes place in 225 locations in thirty-two countries. This includes Key West, my Conch Republic friends, whose SantaCon is scheduled for December 17th. New York City happens to be home to the largest annual SantaCon gathering. That would explain why Times Square was filled with thousands of smiling red-suited partiers by late last night.

From what I learned through SantaCon.info  and interviews with NYC attendees, this December event is non-denominational and focused on dressing up in holiday costumes while parading from one drinking establishment to the next. There’s charitable giving, too. A young woman mentioned having donated non-perishables at one of the bars. Another first-time SantaCon celebrant said the atmosphere was very similar to New York’s St. Patty’s Day parade, and that he’d had such a great time he had already made plans to attend next year with the same group of friends.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a man inside.

Participants generally wear Santa costumes, but we also spied elves and Mrs. Claus costumes. One man I encountered in Penn Station was quite creative, dressed as a present.

Tourists not participating in the event had differing opinions on New York City’s SantaCon. Some felt it didn’t seem to hurt anyone, while business owners and costume retailers stood to make a good profit.

On the other hand, some families with little children witnessed the random drunken Santa or Mrs. Claus whose behavior was naughty rather than nice, and wondered whether it was a wise choice to have these people parading through the streets to Times Square.

I’ll likely never participate in SantaCon, unless I happen to be in Key West during theirs, but my motto has always been: To each, his own. Enjoy the season!

How about you? What’s your opinion of SantaCon?

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16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Darlene Steelman
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 06:47:42

    Looks like fun! As long as no one is getting hurt, I see no harm in SantaCon. 🙂

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 12, 2011 @ 09:50:36

      I agree. Considering the number of people involved, it was quite tame. I don’t think I’d participate here in the northeast since I’m not a cold-weather lover. However, Key West SantaCon is a whole other matter. 🙂

  2. Nicole Basaraba
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 07:37:17

    Interesting, very interesting. I think I’m still of appropriate age to take part in SanraCon…perhaps if I find myself in North America in Christmas 2012, I might have to check it out. Although red isn’t my colour.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 12, 2011 @ 09:52:17

      The crowd seemed to be people primarily in their 20’s-30’s, with a few hardy 40+ mixed in. You’d fit right in, you groovy girl. Don’t worry about the red. You could go as an elf and wear green if it suits you better. 🙂

  3. Maggie Van Well
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 17:15:09

    Don’t feel bad. This year was the first I’ve ever heard of SantaCon. Glad I’m not the only one living under a rock 😀

  4. debbie
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 18:08:33

    i never knew about santacon til now.
    thanks for sharing an interesting and entertaining story.
    jolly holidays!
    : )

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 12, 2011 @ 18:15:43

      Hi Debbie. Great to find you here, and happy you enjoyed reading my post. SantaCon was a fun surprise! I appreciated the participants and tourists who allowed me to interview and/or photograph them, too.

  5. Jeannie Moon
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 18:40:48

    I’d never heard of Santa Con, but I’m not surprised it exists. 🙂 Seriously, shouldn’t all of Santa’s helpers be able to get together and talk shop? Of course, I think they could have this thing in the off season–maybe someplace warm (like Key West)–who’s minding the store???

  6. J Vic
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 20:24:22

    I actually knew about it – ’cause last year I was on an LIRR trip to NYC and was surrounded by jolly inebriated St. Nicks. Imagine my surprise this past Saturday, when hubby and I happened to be going into NYC again – yep, you guessed it — via LIRR, and saw it was SantaCon 2012 all around. Hubby enjoyed the girl elf costumes (and believe me, some of their outfits were smaller than a Christmas stocking) – one young girl had an illuminated Christmas tree on her head. Its all in good fun, but one sorry 30-something Santa, very very drunk, on the train home kept spouting anti-Semitic and anti-women comments. I was thisclose to reaming him out a new one but since hubby was nearby I cannot be as confrontational to idiots as perhaps I might otherwise be.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 12, 2011 @ 20:43:54

      Thanks for stopping by, J. I was impressed by a number of the costumes, and it seemed that most participants were there for a fun day. Sadly, there can be a few who drink too much and then run at the mouth. Sorry you were subjected to that, and hope your day in the city was pleasant aside from that. 🙂

  7. Donna Coe-Velleman
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 23:42:49

    It sounds like a fun event but I can sympathize with those who might not like to have their children exposed to some drunken santas.

    I can see next year’s letter to Santa from little Johnny urging Santa to go to AA. lol

  8. Tuere Morton
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 17:08:28

    lol! Yeah, about that. You know me, give me a reason to dress up!! Especially this year because it’s been so warm. I wouldn’t be that righteous about it where I’d be the only one out there but if a group of us got together, I might don an elf outfit!! 😉

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Dec 13, 2011 @ 17:33:25

      I love costume parties, too. Would probably be a great time going with a bunch of friends. I bet you’d look awfully cute as an elf, Tuere. 🙂

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