SantaCon: New York’s Most Hated Holiday Tradition?

Rockefeller Christmas Tree: New York’s most beautiful holiday tradition.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular: New York’s most talent-filled holiday tradition.
SantaCon: New York’s newest and most controversial holiday tradition.

What is “SantaCon”? You may ask? To those who live in New York, no explanation is necessary. That one Saturday every December, it’s nearly impossible to avoid. To those of you who have never witnessed the phenomenon, allow me to explain.


One Saturday every mid-December, swarms of revelers dress up in holiday paraphernalia, the majority as Santa Claus. Sounds fun, right? will tell you “SANTACON is a charitable, non-commercial, non-political, nonsensical, Santa Claus Convention that happens once a year for absolutely no reason.” That sounds lovely! Thing is, there is a reason: the event is a costumed bar crawl. What SantaCon is renowned for is an excuse for drunken debauchery. Ask any New Yorker, “Tell me about SantaCon?” I will predict their response to be one of these three:

  1. “I have always wanted to do that, it looks awesome!”
  2. “I did it last year, it was bad ass.”

    My roommate took this photo while worked at a bar last year during SantaCon. The experience put her decidedly in the HATE column of thought.

3 Major Controversies of SantaCon:

  1. SantaCon: A fun holiday tradition or an excuse to be a wasted asshole in red?
  2. SantaCon: Spreading holiday cheer through NYC or blighting it with puddles of vomit?
  3. SantaCon: Traumatizing to children or Fuck the kids! Why are you trying to raise kids in this city anyway?!

Here is something that’s hard to deny: There is nothing sadder than watching the confusion of a child during SantaCon.
“But I thought there was only one Santa!”
“Mommy, Santa said a bad word!!”
“Santa’s sick! Even Santa barfs?”
“I thought Santa was supposed to be nice!”
“Oh, they’re just pretending to be Santa? Why?”

I have never participated in SantaCon. A little part of me has always wanted to. Dress up as Santa and run around NYC? That’s just goofy, and silly, and fun: three things I’m all about! Another part of me thinks I’m too old for that shit- the excuse for day drinking, getting plastered, and making an idiot of myself. It’s a good idea on paper: to spread the Christmas spirit. The event actually raises a large amount of money for local charities. In practice it has devolved into drunken frat boys roaming the streets in red packs, being douche bags.


Santa Con’s reputation has gone so awry, there was much talk of shutting down the event entirely this year. Despite police efforts, the event soldiered on this past weekend: December 14, 2013. I was out in the thick of it, surrounded by drunks in red and swirly snow flakes. I got stuck working an event that had me outside all day on Saturday. Saturday which was:

  1. SantaCon
  2. The first big snow day of the year. It snowed steadily from 10AM to 10PM.

I was outside for more of that than I’d care to admit. Bundled up to the point of Michelin Man resemblance, I was cold and cranky. I wanted to be out with my friends, having whiskey warm up my bones!  I want the reason I’m cold to be my slutty Santa outfit, not because I’ve stood outside for 5 hours!


I cannot say with certainty that I’m too old for SantaCon. I would guess majority of participants are 21-24, but any 20-something is not out of place. I won’t rule out Santa Con 2015: celebrating the final months before the big 3-0. We’ll see. What I can say with certainty is that I am too old to be working outside in December, in the snow. I would say NEVER AGAIN, but I already know that’s a lie. I booked a job to work outside in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I’ll be ringing in 2014 in the ultimate of New York Cliché places (and making rent in one night) and I gotta say I’m excited!

A great insiders article from the Gothamist who interviewed the creator of SantaCon:

About New York Cliche

NYC lifestyle blog by Mary Lane. Events, adventures, epic mistakes, dating, life, humor. A 20-something trying to make it (and make out) in the city of dreams.

4 thoughts on “SantaCon: New York’s Most Hated Holiday Tradition?

  1. Good insider’s view of SantaCon though I must say I’m really looking forward to your post in 2015 for the super-duper insider’s view after you participate. 🙂

  2. I’m in the naysayer camp… but I think that’s largely because my first exposure to the tradition involved a massive hangover headache and running into some lady elves tittering in dangerously high heels at the transfer at 14th St and 8th Ave singing out of tune Christmas songs.

  3. They have SantaCon out here in San Francisco too. Though I no longer reside in the city, its reputation mirrors that of the NYC version–either people love it or hate it. I’m like you, always wanted to participate, but never find a good enough reason. Maybe next year!

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