Lonely Planet Writer

Santa Clauses in the dock after running amok in New York

Five Santa Clauses have been arrested in New York City and another 100 received summonses, after thousands of red-and-white-clad revellers took to the streets.

SantaCon New York 2014.
SantaCon New York 2014. Image by Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0

One Claus was arrested for assault, one on a weapons possessions charge and another three on drug possession charges. The merrymakers set off from Brooklyn and finished up in the Lower East Side as part of SantaCon, an annual pub crawl last Saturday.

This year, SantaCon events are taking place in 356 cities across 49 countries. Some, like New York’s, have already taken place, but many will happen this Saturday, December 19. New York City’s is the largest, with some 30,000 donning the red-and-white Yuletide garb, but the event has attracted criticism in recent years. In 2012, lower Manhattan residents complained they were being “terrorised” by Father Christmases. In 2014, local authorities urged venues to boycott the event, prompting organisers to promote this year’s SantaCon as a charity fundraiser.

The event traces its roots back to 1974, when in Denmark a one-off event called Santarchy, inspired by anti-establishment street theatre, featured dozens of Santas handing out department store products as a protest against consumerism. Twenty years later, a Mother Jones article commemorating the event inspired a group of San Francisco revellers to do the same, and SantaCon was born. It spread to New York in 1998 and has mushroomed since.

Dublin at Christmas.
Dublin at Christmas. Image by Irish Jaunt / CC BY-SA 2.0

Something about Christmas seems to inspire pub crawls. One of the more recent additions to Yuletide tradition is the Twelve Pubs Before Christmas. Popular in Ireland and the United Kingdom, these pub crawls are spreading to some Australian and US cities (it’s known as TBOX in Chicago). Twelve Pubs of Christmas events are not centrally coordinated and can happen at any time. Groups of friends don Christmas-themed shirts or jumpers and have one drink at each of a dozen pubs or bars – some groups add more arcane rules. Like SantaCon, these events also gather their fair share of opprobrium, but the tradition is so popular in Dublin that the city’s visitor centre publishes suggested itineraries on its website, as well as advice on how to avoid overdoing it (pro tip: pour half your drink into the nearest pot plant).