Travel Experiences

Santacon : another kind of Christmas magic

Santacon : another kind of Christmas magic
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Santacon, Santas of the world unite and take over

A few days before Christmas tens of thousands of pranksters dressed up as Santas will take over the streets of hundreds of big cities all over the world. It’s called Santacon and it’s another kind of Christmas magic

Santacon
@Elizabeth Blanchet

Christmas is coming soon. Some people love it, some people hate it. Yes, the merry happy season can be enchanting or cause a major source of stress. Anyway why not thumb your nose at the consumerism aspect of Christmas and take part in a Santacon, an urban gathering of crazy happy Santas who hang around the busy streets of big cities from bars to pubs, shops and all sorts of attractions, all singing bawdy Christmas carols and giving around tiny presents. Join the party!

Subversive Danes and the Cacophony Society

“Hey dear Santa, when you’ll come down to the pub with your beers by numbers, don’t forget to pay your round”: this could be the motto of most Santas taking over the streets of hundreds of cities in the world each year a Saturday – or Sunday – before Christmas every year. This unusual wander around in bars, pubs, on board carousels, public transport and shops escalators bears the name of Santacon – an abbreviation for Santa Claus Convention -. It was initiated by a bunch of friends in San Francisco in 1994, all members of the Cacophony Society, a group of artists involved in street theatre, happenings and subversive events. One of their leaders, Santa Rob – aka John Law – came up with the Santacon crazy idea. He is also famous for being one of the man behind the famous Burning Man festival. 

To those free spirited and gentle troublemakers, Christmas and its western world extreme consumerism was a great opportunity to plan an intervention! What particularly inspired Santa Rob was group of Danish artists and pranksters who dressed up as Santas, invaded a supermarket in the 70s, took away toys from the shelves and gave them to the kids around. The police intervened, got the presents back from the children and arrested the fake Santas… 

SantaCon
@EddieHernandezPhotographie

From a Frisco happening to a worldwide event

So why not revive the Danish initiative, make it merrier and if possible avoid some sort of police altercation? One Saturday of December 1994, the Cacophony Society did it in San Francisco. They crawled from bars to pubs, wandered on the streets of the city, sang bawdy carols and ended up a tiny bit drunk. One of them inevitably got sick on the street and spent a few hours in jail to sober up… They made their little effect and spread their good and crazy mood beyond the outskirts of San Francisco. The next years, Santacons started to bloom in other big Americans cities such as Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Austin and many more. The unusual convention even crossed the Atlantic Ocean to land in London in 2000 where it really took off: the association of American audacity and British sense of humour and derision marvellously matched. “I have been dressing up as a Santa for more than 10 years. I can’t attend Santacon every year but each time I am able to, I do it”, Santa Rave, a 45-year-old Santa reveals. Why? “Well, for its childish and fun atmosphere. I also like to hang around with new and familiar Santas, and of course for the pub crawl… Imagine the customers’ reactions when they witness an invasion of Santas in a pub? I just love it”, sums up Santa Rave. In the late 2000s’, Santacon crosses the Channel and gains ground on the continent. This year, Stockholm, Berlin, Naples, Paris, Madrid, Münich, Vienna among others will hold the privilege to host a Santacon… 

santacon
@EddieHernandezPhotographie

Dress Code and subversion

But who hinds behind the beards and cheap Santa suits? “It’s a free event and anyone can take part, adds Santa Rave, you can meet young fellows, older ones, Santa girls, reindeers, new comers, old school Santas and believe me, many things can happen”! The website of Santacon gives a lot of useful informations like these. However there are a few rules to follow: “a random Santa hat and a white beard are not enough, you need to be dressed up from head to toe. The other rule is to have tiny presents and sweets to hand out to passers-by on the street! Well… You are a Santa”, explains one of the London Santacon organisers.

And how about subversion? Well, Santacons are not that subversive anymore. It’s more about having fun, singing crazy carols, being and drinking with like-minded people and yes, still taking the piss at Christmas consumerism”, Santa Rave says. True, as the society has evolved towards more and more internet buying and black Friday craziness… Anyway, the countdown to Santacons has started for tens of thousands of Santas from around the world ready to celebrate Christmas in their own mad way. “One year, a Santa boy proposed a Santa girl by the Nelson Column in front of all the other Santas in Trafalgar Square. I heard they have been happily married since. I can’t wait for this year’s climax”, admits Santa Rave.

Santacon
@Elizabeth Blanchet

Useful informations

The worldwide Santacon website gives details of starting and meeting points in every city: https://www.santacon.info/locations.html

Don’t miss our next article, written by Elizabeth Blanchet, about reducing our carbon footprint while traveling! 

Elisabeth Blanchet -
Journalist & Photograph |

Ex-maths teacher I started my career as a photographer and a journalist in 2003 in London where I lived at the time. Since then I have been working for several magazines such as Time Out London and developed long-term documentary projects about post-war prefabs and their residents, communities of Irish Travellers and young Romanians who grew up in Ceausescu’s orphanages. I travel a lot and love telling stories with images, words, films… Stories of places, experiences and encounters. 

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