Santas Invade San Francisco
By T. Booth Haley
You may have heard of it: thousands of people dressed as Santa Claus frolicking through urban centers around the country and the world. And you may not be surprised to learn that SantaCon is, like so many absurd and merry traditions, a local San Francisco invention.
It started in 1994, when a surreal mob of Santas organized by the San Francisco Cacophony Society wandered around Union Square. This year, SantaCon was celebrated on December 15 in downtown San Francisco, along with cities around the world from Beijing to Moscow, where a world record of 70,000 Santas gathered in 2006. An estimated 276 locations in 37 countries celebrated SantaCon this year.
In San Francisco, the gathering began at noon at Union Square under the giant Christmas tree, with music and dancing. A rainy afternoon failed to dampen spirits in the least, as groups of reveling Santas headed out to various bars downtown. Many had candy canes or other gifts to share with people they met along the road, embodying holiday generosity as much as decadence. When strangers are united by their common dress and a common cause for celebration, an openness is created — the public spaces of the City for one day became places for true intermingling and sharing, as Santas who normally wouldn’t have partied together became friends.
The SantaCon website (santacon.info) is just as goofy as the event. The FAQ section reads:
Q: What is SantaCon?
A: SantaCon is your opportunity to be Santa! Q: Is this some kind of political statement?
A: No. It’s fun, and only fun.
Q: Who’s in charge?
Meanwhile a long list of guidelines emphasizes the non-commercial and non-political nature of the event, while trying to discourage Santas from misbehaving:
“Bring gifts: NAUGHTY gifts to give grown-ups; NICE stuff to give kids. Throwing coal at people is discouraged, no matter who they are. YES, THAT INCLUDES POLITICIANS. But giving out coal might actually be appreciated.”
“Watching Santa get drunk and rowdy is fun. Baby sitting Santa while he vomits in an alley is not. Don't be that Santa.”
But do come be a fun-loving Santa and celebrate a merry San Francisco tradition at SantaCon 2013!
T. Booth Haley is a second-year dental student.