NYC Transit: No Booze During SantaCon

By Keri Blakinger 12/11/17

Two transit systems enacted their annual 24-hour ban in order to stop Santa from pre-gaming on the ride to the popular convention.

Thousands of people in festive Christmas holiday costumes gather for SantaCon in Union Square in San Francisco for the annual Santarchy event.

In a Grinch-like holiday grab, the New York subway nixed all booze on public transit during the annual red-clad debauchery known as SantaCon. 

New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North jumped on the sleigh as well, all enacting similar bans for the weekend of Dec. 9 and 10.

The annual multi-city bar crawl encourages revelers to dress up as Santa, elves and all manner of other Christmas-y figures. But aside from the cosplay component, the event is well-known for its booze-drenched festivities—though the gathering’s organizers discouraged over-doing it.

“SantaCon is fun because Santa is jolly,” the event website notes. “Santa being drunk/disorderly in public isn't fun for anyone and will get you arrested. Don't be that Santa.”

To that end, MTA banned booze for 24 hours, while LIRR and Metro-North said no drinking on trains or at stations, according to WABC-TV.

But New Jersey Transit enacted the most cheer-free policy, prohibiting all liquids on trains, light rail and buses for Saturday and into Sunday. The move was timed “to coincide with the annual SantaCon event in New York City,” NJ Transit tweeted. “This policy will be strictly enforced.”

For the most part, the 2017 shindig was a rosy yuletide event filled with holiday cheer.

“We’re just going to jingle a few bells,” 31-year-old elf Brian Kelly told the New York Daily News as festivities kicked off Saturday. “Don’t be a drunken idiot. There’s going to be a lot of cheer spread, and we don’t want anything to ruin it.”

Despite overall good behavior, there was at least one bad Santa roaming the streets. 

A 24-year-old was arrested near West 36th Street after he got in a bar brawl with a bouncer and a bartender, according to Newsday. The suspected Scrooge allegedly injured an officer’s wrist before he was taken into custody and charged with assault, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration. 

The annual debauchery is the latest iteration in a long line of rowdy holiday traditions, according to unofficial SantaCon historian Mike Montone. 

“Winter Solstice feasts, the Roman Saturnalia and Medieval Christmases,” he said, according to WCBS-TV, “were all rather raucous affairs with closer resemblance to contemporary Halloween and Mardi Gras festivities.”  

This year’s celebrations certainly dialed down the chaos—even as thousands of rosy-faced revelers descended on Manhattan. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.