New York City Draws Its Battle Lines for Tomorrow's War on SantaCon

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the tradition known as "Santacon" is just the very, very worst.  

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It is a truth universally acknowledged among New Yorkers that the holiday tradition known as "Santacon" is just the very, very worst. We've already noted how local businesses are starting to push back against the drunken revelry of the occasion, but as the big day approaches on Saturday, the tension among residents and threats from the authorities are at all time high as the city prepares for a holly jolly showdown between the people saying they just want to have fun, and those want to not be vomited on.

For those who haven't lived through it, every year since 1997, SantaCon participants don their gender-specific Santa gear (full red suits and hats for men, short red skirts and tight red tank tops for women) and march en masse to dozens of bars, where they drink hundreds of beers, and sing hundreds of off-key renditions of jingle bell, all while generally sowing chaos and depravity in streets. What started a small group of revelers has morphed over the years in a massive army of costumed drinkers crowding what seems like every sidewalk in the city. 

Santacon in New York City has been described as "a holiday hell"; and event "distinguished by sexism, drunkenness, xenophobia, homophobia,  and enough incidents of public vomiting and urination to fill an infinite dunk tank"; and "the blight before Christmas." The Santas themselves have been called "boorish," like "Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa, if the character were 24 and worked at Bain Capital," and "drunken louts."

Here's a photo of Santas literally swarming a liquor store during Santacon 2003.

AP Photo/Tonia Cowan

This year, in an effort to prevent the event from turning into yet another drunken debacle, SantaCon organizers sent out clever tweets to remind people not to pee everywhere:

Visiting NYC for #NYCSantacon? Just remember, NYC doesn't show up at your home and piss all over YOU. #TheSantaCode

— santacon (@santacon) December 10, 2013

Not to rape anyone:

Dirty ol' Santa or Ho Ho Ho, just remember No Means No. #TheSantaCode #NYCSantacon

— santacon (@santacon) December 9, 2013

and to generally abide by #TheSantaCode:

Don't fuck with KIDS. Don't fuck with COPS. Don't fuck with BAR STAFF. Don't fuck with NYC! #TheSantaCode #NYCSantacon

— santacon (@santacon) December 7, 2013

Outgoing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the event is an example of "what makes New York, New York," but the city is still taking measures to rein in Santacon 2013. The Long Island Rail Road will ban booze on the train for 24 hours on December 14, to derail Santas' pregame plans, and the NYPD has urged bars not to serve to anyone wearing a white beard, and some bars have effectively banned the partiers altogether.

SantaCon organizers, as well, vow to make moves to curb bad behavior this year. According to

Santa hopes that with a little elbow-grease from the elves, a little patience from the community, and just a pinch of holiday magic, Santacon can spread joy and generate money for local businesses and charities wherever it goes.

Elvin elbow-grease apparently amounts to keeping the sidewalk clean and helping control the crowd of 30,000 expected participants. Best of luck, volunteer elves. We hope babysitting an intoxicated crowd of Santas who do things like allow photographers to take pictures of them while they urinate...

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

... turn hapless ladies upside down...

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

... And make Times Square even more terrible than it already is ...

REUTERS/Kena Betancur

... doesn't kill your Christmas spirit forever.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.