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SantaCon Returns to NYC with Drunk Frat Bros Looking for Sex with An Elf

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Even COVID cannot kill the most terrible time of the year.

Alaina Demopoulos

Most of us will admit to a few nice things about the pandemic. Life slowed down a bit. We walked more or spent less. We could take lunchtime showersor even napsand our bosses were none the wiser. New Yorkers enjoyed a particular perk: the cancellation of SantaCon, that dreaded yearly bar crawl where some 30,000 drunk Santas (mostly belonging to the bridge and tunnel crowd) descend on our city to black out, start fights, and pee anywhere but in toilets. The event, like so many others, was nixed last year, disappointing few of us.

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But a sign placed on subways earlier in the week signaled its feared return: the MTA would ban alcohol on commuter trains like MetroNorth and Long Island RailRoad all day on Saturday, the date of SantaCon. Even Omicron could not damper the boozy holiday spirit: SantaCon has risen from the dead. As one sign carried by a reveler dressed as a cockroach the morning of the bar crawl said (or threatened): You Cant Kill SantaCon.

A sign reads You cant kill SantaCon.

Alaina Demopoulos

SantaCon came to town on Saturday, and though there were noticeably fewer crowds, the bro-y bacchanalia partied on. It would be the 23rd year New York hosted grown adults in Party City costumes drinking themselves into oblivion in the name of charity. (A required $13 donation, which goes to a slew of nonprofits, guarantees entry into all of the bars taking part. Representatives for SantaCon did not respond to a list of questions sent via email.)

Riding into Manhattan from Brooklyn, I noticed my subway car slowly fill up with Santas or Mrs. Clausand then become overrun with them at more gentrified stops in Williamsburg and the East Village. We were headed to Midtown, just a few blocks south of Times Square, where organizers danced, gave pep talks, and performed the pitchiest rendition of All I Want for Christmas Is You for the crowd below to enjoy.

Alaina Demopoulos

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Whos town is it? Santas town! partygoers chanted, many holding beers in paper bags or toting six packs of White Claws or Trulys. A group of men from Yonkers, who gave their names as Dylan, John, and Jeff, stood in Christmas sweaters sipping hard ciders. They were cousins, and it was Jeffs tenth year at Santacon, though Dylan and John were newbies.

I didnt do anything last year; it sucked, Jeff said. To be back, it is amazing. I looked forward to this event last year, so we have to make up for it this year. How many cans [of beer] have you had so far?

I answered Id had none. I had just gotten to SantaCon and besides, it was 10 a.m. How many had they had? Too many! they answered in unison, then clarified it was not a lot, only about four or five.

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The plan, they said, was to have fun, follow the crowd, and stay out all night. I asked them how it was possible to stay out all night while downing five beers before noon. Its our only day out, so were going to go hard and sleep tonight, too, Jeff said. If you want to go out with the boys, you got to get up with the men, Dylan, a construction worker, agreed.

Soon an emcee Santa was speaking to the crowd. SantaCon gets a little rowdy, but thats not the point, he assured the group. Its Christmas, its loving. He then gave The Six Fs of SantaCon: dont fuck with kids, cops, bar staff, New York City as a whole, Santas charity mission, andnew for 2021vaccine requirements. (You must be jabbed to join.)

The emcee explained that the children of New York might be excited seeing all of the Santas staggering through crosswalks and falling onto sidewalks, and he urged them to treat the children with respect. Well, sort of. When a kid sees you, the emcee said, Love that kid! Another Santa quickly whispered to him, and he changed course. I mean, be nice to that kid. No touching [them].

SantaCon veterans assemble.

Alaina Demopoulos

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A trio of men from Long Island, who copped to still being drunk from the night before, said the return of SantaCon was long overdue.

Its like riding a bike, if you fall off you get back on, one said. Its the best day ever. Its just one day, so [haters should] get over it. Their advice to any newbies: Its a marathon, not a sprint. They were chugging beers, but said theyd pace themselves with water as the day went on.

There were drunk boys aplenty, but I wanted to see what some women had to say about willingly spending time with overgrownor currentfrat dudes. Right now, with my friends I feel safe, said Haley, a Seton Hall University student who stood next to her friend Sarah. Most of the time, when Im around drunk men, its like eh. I just hope the guys are OK to keep it in check.

Alaina Demopoulos

And the whole COVID thing? Sort of last years problem, most Santas thought. They cited the strict vaccine policy as a reason to feel comfortable going maskless in crowds. Its a little concerning with Omicron, but we already planned on coming, Hannah, an Upper East Sider, said. Well put the booster to the test.

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Hannah and her friend Emily described themselves as frat babies, so they felt right at home in the sea of Twisted Tea bottles and overdone prom curls. We can last all day, Emily said. Were not drunk enough now. The dream of the day is to get drunk, and maybe meet the Santa love of my life.

I wished them well and turned my attention back to the emcee, who was now pretending to kiss a friend under a giant camel toe. Soon after, a giant conga line started, and after that ceremonial dance, Santas were unleashed onto the city, encouraged to head to any bar on the list.

SantaCon partiers near Times Square.

Alaina Demopoulos

Some lines were more deterrents than othersa nearby one, called Margaritaville, filled up fast. I ran into an Australian expat named Adam, who came with friends, his partner, and his 5-year-old son, who stood in line for the bar glued to a video game. Hes allowed into the bar as long as its before 7 p.m., Adams partner said. He comes to bottomless brunch with us all the time. Hes a seasoned drinker. The child did not look up from his device as the adults laughed.

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Chauncy was a 23-year-old from the suburbs of New York attending his first SantaCon this year. Im ready to get going and I have a good group of people with me, he said. Im not drunk yet. I just showed up. The goal is to have a good time, get festive, and let the good times roll. I want to maximize this opportunity. I just want to win the day, at the end of the day, I want to win the day.

Chauncy and his crew.

Alaina Demopoulos

Even a SantaCon-phobe like myself had to admit that the two women dressed as elves named Liv and Grace came with pretty sick outfits. They wore coordinated costumes with super tall hats, tan fleeces, and green and red tights. We decided to come to this last night, Liv said. We set our alarms for 7: 30 so we could wake up and get our hats, our tights, and literally buy all these supplies. Im Irish, so Im into this. Most people are lovey dovey when theyre drunk, that has been my experience. People open up more, especially when everyone looks crazy.

Liv graciously offered me both a swig of her homemade screwdriver and to start a fight if it would help make your article better. I declined, since I was running on an empty stomach and the day seemed chaotic enough.

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Liv and Grace in their last-minute PartyCity costumes.

Alaina Demopoulos

Further along my journey, I watched as a clearly inebriated gingerbread man dry humped a dog.

In the East Village, a popular Tex Mex restaurant called Yellow Rose hung a missive in its window: NO SANTAS!!

I had to turn some people away, and they were not happy, she said euphemistically.

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A few blocks away at Everyman Espresso, a barista told me, I saw a bro staggering around at like 9: 45 this morning and I thought, Oh god, am I going to have to punch a Santa today? Together, we manifested a Santa-free perimeter around her cafe.

By 2 p.m., things had become decidedly drunker. There were more visibly inebriated elves and snowmen, and I witnessed at least two sets of Mr. and Mrs. Clauss getting into fights on the street. Fuck Santacon! a pissed pedestrian yelled while trying to cross the street and facing a barricade of red and green. The Daily Mail reported that NYPD broke up some fights between Santas, and a few videos of such skirmishes floated around social media.

Can I talk to you about SantaCon? I asked one Santa. Can I talk to you about how I gotta take a piss? he retorted.

Then Will told me, This interview is over, as if I was the one who said the weird shit.

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Close by were two men who totally gave their real namesJimbo and Skidmarkand a woman named Zooey. After some arguing, they agreed they were a 7 out of 10 on the drunk scale. I was to be blackout by the end of the day, Zooey said. Im pretty close.

I want to keep the Christ in Christmas, Skidmark chimed in.

If I can be serious, COVID hit us hard, Jimbo said. So to have SantaCon come back, which it only slightly isit is not the same as it was a few years agothe same type of energy, that would be my goal for this day.

Then Jimbo introduced me to Jeff, the Christmas tree he was carrying around from bar to bar.

As the merry crowd lilted away, all of them requiring each others support to continue like sentient Jenga blocks, a young girl rode by on her bicycle. There are too many Santas! she yelled to her mother, a classic East Villager in a leather jacket who beamed with pride. There are too many Santas in the East Village and there are too many Santas in Midtown! Then the child sped off, presumably on her way to a much cooler party.

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