Beware the Santacon Menace

By Nina Puro 12/14/12

The annual event, which takes place this weekend, prompts well-justified fears of drunken carnage.

Bad, bad Santas Image via

Santacon, the annual multi-city event for revelers dressed as Santa, takes place this Saturday. It was originally founded by performance artists in a spirt of anti-commericalism: one summary of its history credits "the surrealist movement and other subversive art currents." But Santacon has evolved over the years to something arguably less noble—with a reputation as a huge public boozing session with hordes of festive drunks trawling the streets, leaving waves of cheap red polyester, beer-sticky jingle bells and partied-out participants in their wake. "I was meeting a few friends on St. Marks and started to see more and more red-capped jerks as I was walking down from the L-train," 27-year-old Lisa from Brooklyn tells The Fix of last year's event. "They were oh-so-merrily stumbling along holding each other up. I wanted to trip them, but they were doing a pretty good job of tripping over themselves." Meanwhile a 35-year-old multi-year former participant from LA confirms to us how difficult it was to attempt to participate in a sober state: "A lot of people start [drinking] immediately. I didn't. But I also stopped attending when the groups I knew stopped supporting it."

Last year New York's Gothamist posted a plea to "end Santacon"; this year it's issued a warning to anyone planning to be in Manhattan on Saturday. Another site is providing printable signs for restaurateurs such as ""We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service To Drunk Santas" and "No Santas: Go Back to the North Pole." And Santacon's own website guidelines repeatedly address alcohol, saying "Watching santa [sic] get drunk and rowdy is fun. Babysitting santa while he vomits in an alley is not." They also find it necessary to remind participants to pay for their drinks and tip bartenders, and to warn against drunk driving, stating that if "santas [sic] end up being abusive or violent" they should "remember that there is no 'bail fund'." In 2008, a New Zealand Santacon degenerated into a full-on riot—dubbed Santarchy—in which stores were looted and security guards assaulted.

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Nina Puro is a regular contributor to The Fix. Her poetry and essays have appeared in publications such as Third CoastPleiades and Harper Palate. You can find Nina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.