Love it or hate it, for one day a year, Santas take over San Francisco for a day of holiday-inspired fun.
What started as a a small event in San Francisco in 1994, which was less a celebration of Christmas and more of a statement on the greed and consumerism surrounding the holiday. The idea for the event came from an article in Mother Jones, a popular American magazine, which detailed the antics of a theater group in Copenhagen in 1974 where a theater group dressed up as Santas and gave away merchandise from the shelves of a department store. Needless to say, the activist group was arrested, but it helped spark a nationwide obsession with the whole “dressing up as Santa and going on a city-wide pub crawl” thing. The debut San Francisco event, appropriately called Santarchy, was a lot different than the current one and wasn’t actually intended to become an annual event and certainly was not expected to attract as many people as it does every year. After the first event in 1994, the SantaCon Fever began to spread, launching in Portland in 1996, Seattle in 1997 and both New York and Los Angeles in 1998.
So how big did Santacon get? Over the years, it has spread worldwide, with an estimated 300 cities in 44 countries hosting similar events during the holiday season. The majority of the events are relatively tame, with a moderate amount of people in attendance, however some cities really took the event to a new level. In New York City alone, it is estimated that as much as 30,000 people participate in the event and San Francisco see between 15,000 and 20,000 each year.
Since the event is basically a huge San Francisco Pub Crawl, as most of the participating Santas travel from bar to bar, grabbing drinks at each stop, so it has been met with some opposition since a small number of Santas get drunk and sometimes do some bad things. However, an overwhelming majority of the participants are just there to have a good time. In fact, the organizers do not condone or suggest any drunken, naughty Santa behaviors. If you don’t want to run into some imbibed Santas on the day of SantaCon, then it is best to avoid the main areas like around City Hall and on Polk Street.
The event takes place in December each year. To find out more about the SantaCon, check out the official website at www.santacon.info.