From today’s New York Times:
Santa broke out the sour mash at 10 a.m. Christmas was coming. Why not have a drink? He raised his glass to another Santa, who was sucking back some Colt 45.This could be further confirmation that the “-con” trope has escaped into the wild. Still, if they’ve been calling it “Santacon” for ten years, and it started in the Bay Area, I’d say the odds are good that someone connected to our tribe was involved. A mention of the Santas retreating to a Polynesian-style lounge bar during their first outing in 1994 only adds to my suspicions.
“Pace yourself,” the second Santa said. “I started with beer this year, not Jim Beam like last year.”Santa got drunk yesterday. He cursed. He smoked. He took off his clothes in public. It was Santacon, an annual gathering of nasty Santas, in which some 500 naughty Clauses marched through the city, shouting, drinking, raising gentle mayhem.
Santacon began 10 years ago in San Francisco, where 30 friends, disheartened by the happiness of Christmas, got together in their Santa suits and set out to have some fun. They crashed a dinner dance and stole people’s drinks. Went to a strip club. Drank themselves silly. Some made it home. Others slept in the streets.I’m watching this story, just waiting for someone to complain about the demise of traditional Christmas practices.
This year, Santacon was—or will be—celebrated from New York to Tokyo and places in between. Its schedule and history can be found online at www.santarchy.com.
The brains behind Santacon are something of a mystery, its organizers remaining underground. A reporter in the crowd set out yesterday to find the Claus-in-Charge but was told there was no main Claus, only subordinate Clauses.
There are four cardinal rules at Santacon. Don’t mess with the police. Don’t mess with kids. Don’t mess with store security. And don’t mess with Santa. These rules were printed on the backs of vomit bags. The bags were passed among the crowd.
New York’s Santacon began with dim sum at the Triple 8 Palace, a Chinese joint on East Broadway under the Manhattan Bridge. “In the North Pole, we don’t get a chance to eat often Chinese very often,” one Santa said. “So when we come to the city, we like to hit the Asian places.”
This Santa, like most, asked to use his working name for reasons of professional privacy. So, Santa it was—all around.
“Santa’s hungry!” Santa called out to the waiter.
“Santa’s taking his pants off!” Santa hollered in the Triple 8. And he did. At the dim sum cart.
After fueling up, Santa headed for the F train. “Have you been nice or naughty?” one lovely Santa in a pair of fishnet stockings asked a police officer. The officer said he’d been naughty. “Well, you get two candy canes for being naughty,” lovely Santa said.
When the F train started, 200 Santas lurched and shouted, “Ho!”
It was a sea of hats and beards and bellies. There were so many Santas, one began to wonder how they got the day off. It was, after all, the holidays—Santa’s busiest time of year.
“Wal-Mart took my job,” said Santa Lamar.
Santa Kevin had a different answer. “Santa got outsourced to India,” he said.
In the West 34th Street station, Santa broke the escalator. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” the crowd of Santas yelled. Then Santa stopped in Herald Square to sing some variations on carols—“Frosty the Cokehead” and “Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire.”
It was on to the New York Public Library, where several hundred Santas gathered on the front steps shouting: “Santa wants a beer! Santa wants a beer!”
One woman turned to her husband with a frown. “This,” she said, “is really going to mess up the kids.”
There was a dicey moment when two traffic officers gave Santa Claus the eye as he and 300 pals crossed 42nd Street at the Avenue of the Americas. A Santa in the vanguard told the officers a few more Santas would be coming in their wake.
“Whose streets?” one Claus chanted. “Santa’s streets!” the crowd called back.
Now Santa headed for that beer. “Belly up to the bar!” one Santa shouted as Santas, by the hundreds, wandered into an Italian place on West 44th Street.They ordered drinks and staged a belching competition. It was 2 p.m. The day was young.
Bad Santa is older than Christmas, and at least as pervasive. He’s the Abbot of Unreason, the Bean King, the Boy Bishop, the Prince des Sots, and the Lord of Misrule. He and his perpetually irrepressible ilk have always turned up at the Feast of Asses, Feast of Fools, Brumaria, and Saturnalia. He probably goes back farther than that, but the records don’t.
Besides, Saint Nicholas is good for it. He’s the patron saint of New York City, and the guy who laid a smackdown on Arius in a tavern during the Council of Nicaea. The current image of kindly ol’ Santa Claus, and Christmas as a quiet family holiday, was a PR campaign cooked up in the Nineteenth Century as an attempt to curb the drunken excesses of public celebration in NYC.
So ho, ho, ho. Just keep that fat guy in the red suit away from my wallet.