SantaCon may not be a traditional holiday activity, and in fact, it probably ruined the faith of countless young children who witnessed a slew of drunken Santas stumbling through the streets of lower Manhattan on Saturday afternoon. But there is something undeniably joyful about witnessing streets full of Kris Kringles, even when they are peeing outside bars, or puking in a pile of garbage bags.
SantaCon officially began this past Saturday at 10am when the five starting locations were announced via NYCSantaCon.com: Astoria, Crown Heights, Greenpoint, Hoboken, or Staten Island. But only the most hardcore Santa impersonators emerged before noon. Each group in their neighborhoods–an Astoria-based Santa reminisced later that afternoon about being escorted to a “creepy loft party” that he quickly abandoned–before storming the subways and streaming into the streets of lower Manhattan.
The “rules” of the event listed on the web site explicitly stated that this event was most definitely not a pub crawl. And while alcohol consumption was a prominent feature, if not the entire point of the day, in retrospect the rule was accurate. One “Elton John Santa” explained, while waiting for an open container ticket outside a temporary police outpost on West 4th St., that he and his small band of St. Nicks had followed their Brooklyn-based group to Stone Street that morning where 200 Christmas creatures of all sorts stood outside of the appointed bar drinking in the street. The concept of the pub-less crawl was the catalyst that brought about the Christmas-y clusterfuck that was Washington Square Park, the secret spot the coordinators chose for the five routes to converge mid-afternoon.
At 3 pm, 100s of Santas, many of whom were wearing the same $20 costume from the Village Paper party store on Greenwich Avenue, were jumping rope, gorging on candy canes, and singing crude Christmas carols (“Frosty the cokehead was a crazed neurotic soul/With a big glass pipe and a vial of crack/And no sense of self-control”). Among the assembled masses was a robot Santa with working lights and a smoking exhaust pipe, a man dressed as Jesus wearing an “It’s My Birthday” T-shirt, and a Tiger Woods Santa with a Nike “Just Do It” shirt, tiger ears, and a tail. It seemed that everyone was so overwhelmed with holiday spirit they simply forgot that they probably shouldn’t consume alcohol (using their Santa hats in lieu of brown paper bags) in a park surrounded by NYPD trailers set up for the occasion. One Santa who was about to receive an open container ticket (the order of the day) actually bolted and disappeared into a nearby mob of identical Santas, who serendipitously camouflaged their comrade.
The bond between Santas was fierce. When a plainclothesed man attempted to join in on a game of Santa jump rope, he was immediately booed and forced to step out. Santas, elves, reindeer, and a handful of people dressed as menorahs screamed to each other across every street, high-fived one another in passing, and started cheers of “Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!” at every intersection. By six pm, the park had been abandoned for warmer grounds. Yet the singularly most defining ambassador of SantaCon remained: a lone man in a lizard costume, his tail dragging on the sidewalk behind him, screaming–or rather slurring–into his cell phone, “I said! Expect Santasaurus to arrive in a little bit!”