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In New York City we are so very lucky. How many opportunities present themselves in any other city that allow one to dress in some kind of trashy, obnoxious costume? One. Halloween.

New Yorkers have not only on Halloween, but for a magical holiday event called SantaCon. Do you think Saint Patrick’s Day is crazy? Forget it. According to NYPD officer “Chris”, SantaCon is the ultimate amateur event for drinkers.

“This is much worse than St. Paddy’s Day, it doesn’t stop. It just goes on all day and all night. It’s a city-wide event with specific zones and locations. We’re running around all day trying to corral these people.”

SantaCon started in San Francisco in 1994, from that day on, it inspired a variety of drunken Santa events throughout the United States. Some resulted in looting sprees and cheerful wee acts of vandalism.Some people must have heard really nontraditional stories about Santa.

Thankfully, things have calmed down. With extra-added protection from NYPD, those bystanders subjected to this yuletide event can rest a little easier. This year for the first time, the route was actually posted on the SantaCon website. To prepare Manhattan residents and it’s throngs of holiday tourists from drunken destruction. SantaCon isn’t completely about getting hammered, though. Everyone’s encouraged to bring at least two cans of food for Manhattan and Brooklyn food banks or make a donation to the ever-popular Toys for Tots. The SantaCon website also insists that it is NOT a bar crawl (this is stated on the site with no sense of sarcasm). I beg to differ.

My day started at 10:00am at Pier 84 where all of the Santas could congregate as one big massive pre-drunken group, then were set free to explore the city.

There are Santa-friendly zones you can look up on the SantaCon website or even by downloading a SantaCon App. These were the zones:

Zone 1: New York’s Hottest Club is…The North Pole. Which included dancing at Pacha, a wedding at Hudson Terrace, bowling at Lucky Strike, Times Scare-A Haunted House with free porn and brunch specials scattered about (if you actually decided you wanted to eat something before you got annihilated).


Zone 2: Santa Delights Tourists in Midtown, including Legends Bar and Grill, Foley’s, Slattery’s.


Zone 3: Downtown Santa Takes the East Village, Doc Hollidays, The Thirsty Scholar and more.


Then at 7:00…


Zone 4: Hardcore Santa Does Brooklyn, destination Williamsburg, Spike Hill Music Hall, Spritzenhaus, with an after party at The Warsaw: start time 7:30pm-end time Christmas.

There were about 20,000 participants last year, this year those numbers were expected to double, if not more.

I was fortunate (?) enough to be in Zone 2. I entered the gentlemen’s club, Rick’s Cabaret, which was on the route. The club was packed to full capacity. Filled with so many people that it was hard to tell who was an exotic dancer actually working at the club, or who was there dressed like a sexy Santa to kick back and get more wasted with their friends. The female customers had less clothing on than the dancers.

“This is my second year doing SantaCon! I can’t really remember what happened last year, but it was fun,” Celine, a civilian female at the strip club dressed in sparkly tights and a green tutu happily told me this. “I think we’re just gonna go home and pass out after this. We’re supposed to go to a legit party later, but I don’t know if we’ll make it.” After making that statement, Celine and her friends did four rounds of shots.

Then she got a lapdance.

At 1:30pm.

Santa really does bring a melting pot of people together. Every time a new Santa entered the club, fellow Santas with hugs and high fives welcomed them. Instant new friends! A man dressed as the Easter Bunny even made an appearance. Holiday creatures unite!

After leaving the club. I made my way around some of the other locations in Zone 2. Each one with massive waiting lines, with eager drunken non-bar crawlers waiting to get in. I encountered a few people in line who were NOT dressed in any sort of costume. Almost all of the un-costumed people were annoyed looking females. My most bizarre encounter was at a Duane Reade watching a plain clothed dressed couple standing in front of the chip section for a good ten-minutes. The guy was combing the girl’s hair. Perhaps they had taken a holiday hit of ecstasy. There simply wasn’t a chance to take a photo of this bizarre sighting.

“I just didn’t feel like getting dressed up. It’s 40 degrees and I’m cold. I’ll probably be so wasted later that it’s a good thing I’m wearing jeans, if I vomit on these I won’t be that upset.”

“My boyfriend made me come out. I want to go home.” This was all I got out of speaking to a tipsy brunette teetering in front of the Empire State Building in some sort of brown velour sweatsuit with no coat. Perhaps she was supposed to be a reindeer. I’ll never know.

I felt the worst for the families with small children. Only in New York, can a child see a Santa Claus, MULTIPLE Santa’s publicly intoxicated. Santa’s making out with Elves, Reindeer and other costumed characters on the street for all to see. It was borderline furry party stuff.

My favorite explanations overheard:

“That’s not the real Santa.”

“My God…”

“Don’t look over there!” (Santa and friends vomiting)

The easiest way to avoid SantaCon is to make an effort to go to their website and see where the party zones are and to simply NOT be in them. You still may not be safe. SantaCon was a day into night event, and as I walked quickly out of Zone 2 I saw mobs of Santa’s heading down from Zone 1. Here are some of my favorites.

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Keep in mind it was 40 degrees outside.

4:00 PM.

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Looks like Santa needs a minute to recover. Thank God he has so many helpers around.


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This girl was crying into her cell phone on 5th Avenue in front of a Burger King all by herself. A lake of mascara and eye makeup streaked all over her drunken face.


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This happy couple seems to be ready to party.

My favorite picture that says it all.

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Who cares about wearing a winter coat when you have brown liquor for warmth, and a variety of drunken Santa’s that you can hop into bed with when you are ready to go home and pass out.

I was on the train and out of the city by 5:00pm. Next year, I fear the Santapocolypse is upon us.

Randi Newton is on twitter @WorldOfRandi, and her blog

Pictures via