SantaCon in NYC

1.SantaCon prep involves bars stocking lots of beer

“We’ll sell about 60 percent more beer” during SantaCon than on an average Saturday, said Sal Rozenberg, who manages 230 Fifth, a participating SantaCon stop for the past four years.

Rozenberg said the Flatiron bar, not pictured, will serve nearly 5,000 customers between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“We hire more hosts and increase security,” Rozenberg said. “We order more backup beer trucks.” The restaurant also stops taking reservations and halts its brunch service to accommodate the Santas.

2.SantaCon has no problem with Scrooges

Take loud, drunk people, throw in a Santa suit and you’ve got yourself an extra cringeworthy group of people — to the Scrooges of New York, at least. “Some establishments and neighborhoods say ‘no’ to Santa, and we respect that,” Spear said. “We want Santa to be welcome back because they were respectful to the area. So, we try hard to keep the message, ‘Don’t be that Santa.'”

Participants are encouraged to respect security, the NYPD and the community — whether they all actually follow through or not is another story. In 2015, the NYPD warned that bad behavior would end with a Santa in handcuffs.

3.Be ready for tipsy gifting

Christmas just might come early if you run into a Santa on Dec. 10. Some SantaCon participants take part in the group’s gift swap, a tradition started by the “old timers,” Glaser said. Santas will bring and wrap their own presents to hand out to each other and to people they run into throughout the day. “We encourage self-made gifts, whether they’re cards or ornaments . . . or coal,” Glaser said. They color-code the wrapping paper to keep track of which gifts are kid-friendly.

4.It’s not just about drinking … really

They may seem like they’re up to no good (which very well may be true, for some Santas), but the gang dressed in red has helped raise more than $200,000 for NYC charities in the past four years, Spear said. The $10 entry fee helps get you into bars along the crawl and leaves a bit left over for a donation. This year’s charities include Boys Town, Urban Pathways and Materials for the Arts in New York.

5.SantaCon has sister spinoffs

SantaCon spinoffs are encouraged — there’s also ZombieCon, KlownyCon (a play on the creepy clown craze) and the BunnyHop. These crawls are a part of the participatory culture art movement the Kostume Kult arts collective hopes to make more common in the city. “We’re a bit outrageous, but that’s our point,” Glaser said.

It’s more about creating living art than getting drunk — or at least it’s supposed to be, he said. As new generations join in on SantaCon, its roots and message become hazy, he added.

6.There’s a wacky dress code

Throwing on a Santa hat and yelling “ho ho ho” doesn’t automatically turn you into Kriss Kringle. Everyone at SantaCon doesn’t have to don the traditional suit, but they do have to dress up to show their spirit. The theme is red, but elves, Christmas trees, reindeer and other costumes work, too.

“An acceptable SantaCon outfit is head to toe red leggings, pants or tights and the coat,” Spear said. “But, the most impressive is in the morning seeing a sea full of creative Santas. We’ve had Run-D.M.C. Santas with chains, potato latkes Santas with a dollop of sour cream in the middle, pirate Santas, zombie Santas, snow globe Santas.”

 

7.There’s a wacky dress code

Throwing on a Santa hat and yelling “ho ho ho” doesn’t automatically turn you into Kriss Kringle. Everyone at SantaCon doesn’t have to don the traditional suit, but they do have to dress up to show their spirit. The theme is red, but elves, Christmas trees, reindeer and other costumes work, too.

“An acceptable SantaCon outfit is head to toe red leggings, pants or tights and the coat,” Spear said. “But, the most impressive is in the morning seeing a sea full of creative Santas. We’ve had Run-D.M.C. Santas with chains, potato latkes Santas with a dollop of sour cream in the middle, pirate Santas, zombie Santas, snow globe Santas.”

8.Social media completely changed SantaCon’s scale

Before social media, SantaCon was a word-of-mouth, invitation-only event. Spear found out about it eight years ago when a group of 40 Santas piled onto the 6 train, she said. At that time, the event was organized via email exchanges. Now, Facebook groups, Snapchat stories and Instagram posts pop up come December to spread the word.

“Social media has tremendously changed [SantaCon],” Spear said. “Everyone sees their friends getting dressed up and they say, ‘I want to do that, too.'” Social media has helped NYC’s gathering become one of the most popular in the nation, with nearly 20,000 revelers per year.

9.Why SantaCon locations are kept secret

There’s magic in the holidays, so there’s a little magic in SantaCon, too. Like Santa dropping off presents on Christmas Eve, the organizers keep the list of bars they’ll be hitting secret until the night before. “It’s like the anticipation of Christmas morning,” Spear said. “We keep the magic by waiting until the last minute.”

10.It’s tradition: Elves take most of the abuse at SantaCon

Don’t beat up on the little guys. They work hard gathering and making presents all year to please their jolly boss. “An elf would never actually be expected to do the bidding of a Santa at SantaCon,” Spear said. “But sometimes you can’t stop Santa from being high and mighty.”

11.How to know if your SantaCon is an impostor

With social media expanding SantaCon’s scope, it’s become relatively easy for impostors to try to convince people they’re the real deal. “Santa has heard of various websites selling tickets for this event, some of which seem to be bogus,” the SantaCon website reads.

If you’re not on santacon.nyc, your SantaCon isn’t real.

If you know the bar route earlier than one night before the event, your SantaCon isn’t real.

If you don’t participate in a donation, your SantaCon isn’t real.

If you don’t have to dress up, your SantaCon isn’t real.

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