Christmas is comprised of many things. Families setting aside their busy schedules and sitting down. A sweating ham resting on a platter sitting on the table top. Wrapped gifts. And, of course, the bringer of those gifts, Santa Claus. However, for some people, Santa Claus doesn’t only make an appearance when the days become short and the temperature drops. He also has his very own convention to call home.
SantaCon was founded in the mid-90s by a group of San Francisco street performers as a way to celebrate the season in a uniquely off-beat manner. The first SantaCon consisted of guerilla street theatre performances, pranks, and capped off with a surreal parade of Santas in various states of dress and physical fitness.
That first meeting spread rapidly. The novelty of seeing a multitude of Santas cavorting around town was reinforced by the fun of a carnival-esque atmosphere and the extensive coverage given to early SantaCons, the novelist Chuck Palahniuk writing about the experience in several instance, spread awareness about the convention.
Today the standard SantaCon involves a large number of people dressed as Santa Claus, although a certain naughtiness in alteration of aid costume is encouraged. A good deal of alcohol is also involved in the day’s event with the convention attendees generally basing their operations at several bars. Calling the event a convention is misleading since that can imply a dreary tradeshow floor with bad fluorescent lighting. Most of SantaCon takes place in the bars and in the streets.
Performances of Christmas carols, often sauced up with colorful language, is added to the giving of gifts to strangers by attendees. A good approximation is that SantaCon is simply a St. Patrick’s Day parade for the holidays.
Yet, SantaCon isn’t just about drinking and pulling pranks. Organizers claim that the event is a rejection of the droll and commercialized Christmas season and an embrace of the merrier and absurd side of the holiday, giving people a chance to unwind rather than stress over gifts and dinners.