East Village, New York, USA, December 2018 – Several thousand Santas roamed the streets of the East Village in New York City celebrating Santacon.
SantaCon the annual mass gathering and pub crawl in with people dress in Santa Claus costumes or as other Christmas characters parade in several cities around the world.
Photos by: Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire
by Kurt Wheelock
NEW YORK, December 8 — For SantaCon 2018, the New York City Police Department told participants to have fun but stay off its naughty list, telling them online that “blocking foot and car traffic is a summonsable offense.” But if a line of imbibing Santas is too long to cross and intersection before the light changes, is it a crime? NYPD also reminded that “open containers are prohibited by law in New York City,” with no mention of what many understand to be the brown paper bag exception or loophole.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s trains on Metro North and Long Island Railroad both said drinking was prohibited from 10 am onward on December 8. But at Pennsylvania Station’s Pennsy Food Hall, sales were brisk of Stellas, Pennsy Lagers, Radebergers and Guinness. New Jersey Transit also said no drinking.
But from Midtown Manhattan to the Lower East Side and beyond, bars welcomed the Santa’s, saying that some of the profits would go to the needy. It has raised over $400,000 in the past five years according to SantaCon.info which added, “Be Merry, Be Safe, Be Responsible for your Own Actions, Respect the City, Don’t litter, Don’t scare children, Listen to the cops and in general have a jolly good time.”
Back in 2015 NYPD’s then-Commissioner Bill Bratton warned SantaCon participants that “they can be naughty, but it has to be nice.” NYPD helicopters were used to track the movements of the Santas. In 2013 Lieutenant John Cocchi of New York’s Midtown North Precinct wrote to Hell’s Kitchen bar owners, “”Having thousands of intoxicated party goers roam the streets urinating, littering, vomiting and vandalizing will not be tolerated in our neighborhood. The negative impact that this event will bring to your community will far outweigh the short-term benefit to your establishment.”
In 2014 there was a conflict of timing: SantaCon coincided with Millions March NYC, when people gathered in Washington Square Park to protest the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. SantaCon organizers acknowledged online, “This is a stressful time for New York City, and we are in the midst of a protest that is spreading the NYPD thin. SantaCon has compassion for these civic organizations and is working with them to have a peaceful and joyful holiday celebration.”
In SantaCon 2017, one man was arrested outside a bar on West 36th Street after he got into a fight with a bouncer and bartender. The 24-year-old man resisted arrest and caused a wrist injury to an officer but was eventually taken into custody. He was charged with assault, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration.
Some holidays go back centuries. But SantaCon goes back less than a quarter century, to California, based a Mother Jones article about the Danish activist theater group Solvognen. In 1974 Solvognen gathered dozens of Santas in Copenhagen to hand out items from the shelves of a department store to customers as presents before they were arrested.
So in San Francisco in 1994, a self-described “urban adventure club” called the Cacophony Society organized people dressed as Kris Kringle joined in mocking Christmas gift consumerism. Co-founder John Law traced it even further back, saying that the “Cacophony Society was born out of the Suicide Club, and that came from an even earlier idea: the free school movement of the 1960s.” The SantaCon idea caught on and this year spreads to almost 200 cities, including Paris – locale of the Yellow Jacket protests – Hong Kong; Davenport, Iowa; Stockholm; Shanghai and Hanoi.
For those in New York who don’t like SantaCon, Congressmember-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed an alternative GrinchCon: “a tea [and] coffee crawl where people can spread peace and quiet everywhere they go.” Maybe next year.