As the holidays are just around the corner, so is the most beloved (and dreaded) event of the season: SantaCon. Hudson County, the home of some of New Jersey’s lively nightlife, is once again hosting SantaCon 2022 in Hoboken on Saturday, December 17. But, is SantaCon really just a day of care-free jolly fun, or is it the nightmare before Christmas?
What Is SantaCon?
SantaCon is a loosely organized event—similar to St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween—where people in organizing cities across the United States dress up as Santa Claus or other holiday characters. A large mob of Santa clones stumbling through the streets, roaming to participating bars in various states of inebriation.
Today, SantaCon is an annual tradition in over 100 cities across the U.S. New York, Hoboken, Portland, and San Francisco are some of the major cities that host SantaCon, with New York being holding the largest event. To each city, SantaCon means something a little different. According to New York SantaCon, “SantaCon is a charitable, non-political, nonsensical Santa Claus convention that happens once a year to spread absurdist joy.” Through New York SantaCon, participants are encouraged to purchase a ticket on the website to donate $15 to Santa’s Charity Drive in exchange for the pub crawl map and exclusive information. Whereas the Hoboken SantaCon only claims to be an annual Santa-themed pub crawl full of fun and chaos. One thing about all SantaCons remains the same: it is a day of true holiday spirit and spirits.
Would you believe that the history of how SantaCon can actually be traced all the way back to Denmark? According to Vox, a group of protesters battling social and economic inequality in Danish society held the first SantaCon in 1974 as a form of performance art protesting. About 75 Santas arrived in Copenhagen to put on an act each day. The Santas explained to their audience as time went on, that they learned more about the consumerism and greed that had ruined the true meaning of Christmas. While the demonstrations began as fun, lighthearted events, they occasionally turned violent.
Copenhagen’s “Julemandshæren” (Santa Claus army) received lots of media coverage and it is known as one of the key works of performance art in Denmark. When news of the event reached the U.S., it caught the attention of well known prank societies in San Francisco, and in 1994, one of them pulled off a Santa army reenactment. The San Francisco Cacophony Society pranksters caused a bit of friendly holiday chaos dressed in their Santa suits throughout the city. The following year, many of the Santas wanted to dress up all over again, this time even more disorder. The event became known as Santarchy. Eventually it evolved into the boozy SantaCon we all know today. Portland, New York, and Hoboken eventually adopted their own SantaCons and by the early 2000s, there were thousands of drunken Santas dressing up each year.
stop asking for a straight pride parade when you literally have santacon pic.twitter.com/YBjvXGVits
— matt (@mattxiv) December 10, 2022
The Grinch’s Take on SantaCon
For every person that loves putting on the velvety red suit each year and day drinking in the streets of their city on a cold December afternoon, there is a person who would rather do literally anything else.
Each year, no one gets a say in the fact that Hoboken and New York get bombarded by hundreds of intoxicated, littering Santas. The messiness of the entire is completely inevitable and can make even leaving your apartment intolerable. Over the years, the Santas get even more shitfaced, performing acts of public urination, vomiting and other unpleasantries. In an Op Ed written on the matter, SantaCon is just an excuse to go ho-ho-hoing around, competitively binge drink and wreak wreckless havoc on society.
One of the worst parts about SantaCon—specifically in New York—is that it claims to be a charity event. Because the event is unorganized, donating is not a requirement. While you can donate on the New York SantaCon website, SantaCon as a whole cannot be considered a charitable event.
Even one of the originators of SantaCon, John Law, admits that SantaCon isn’t what it used to be. He says to Vice that, “We had no intention of creating some giant, stupid wave of marauding crimson that was going to sweep across the planet.” Back in San Francisco, SantaCon was supposed to be a bit of silly, PG Christmas fun.
SantaCon 2022 in Hoboken
Hoboken’s SantaCon 2022 is being held on December 17. Some perks being offered this year include free entry to all participating bars, exclusive drink and food specials, and the first 1,000 people to register will be given a Santa hat. The participating bars include Texas Arizona, Tally Ho, Mills Tavern, Willie Mcbrides, Madd Hatter, Black Bear, The Ainsworth, The Shepherd & The Knucklehead, The Shannon, Grover Station, Mikey Squad, more still to be determined.
If you dare to participate alongside the thousands of Santa’s running wild throughout Hoboken, you can purchase a ticket for one of the bar crawl time slots here. On the day of the event, go to the registration location on your ticket to pick up your wristband and map. Then, let the bar hopping begin!
About the Author/s
Meg is studying magazine journalism and civic engagement at Syracuse University with a passion for writing and editing. She is a Jersey girl at heart and has a slight obsession with Chai Tea Lattes.