Santacon 2012: a photo and video essay

In the post that celebrated my first blogoversary earlier this month, I mentioned that I was looking forward to attending the latest Santacon as eagerly as I was awaiting any of my upcoming international travels. And this past Saturday, Santacon once again exceeded my expectations.

For the uninitiated, Santacon is an annual, all-day-long gathering of thousands of people dressed as Santas as well as an assortment of other characters (some of whom relate to the holiday season and some of whom have no particular connection to this time of year). The Santaconners run around throughout the city, pausing at various landmarks as well as watering holes. Santacon is held in dozens of countries around the world, but the one in New York City generally has the largest turnout. Ellen of the travel blog “The Time-Crunched Traveler” included Santacon on her list of “10 ways to celebrate Christmas in New York City”. (However, Ellen and I have a friendly disagreement about Santacon, as she doesn’t appreciate the event in the way that I do. In fact, she wrote, “[Santacon] is not really something I have a desire to actually participate in.” But as far as I’m concerned, she’s missing out! :))

My blog post about the 2011 edition of Santacon, which you can read here, provides more background on what Santacon is all about.

The 2012 Santacon in New York City got underway in Hudson River Park at Pier 84, at 10:00 a.m.

Some of the many assembled participants at the starting location: Hudson River Park at Pier 84. Of course, there were far to many Santas to fit in the frame of a single shot.

Some of the many assembled participants at the starting location: Hudson River Park at Pier 84. Of course, there were far too many Santas to fit in the frame of a single shot.

This is what happens when Santas start drinking at 10 a.m.

This is what happens when Santas start drinking at 10 a.m.

In the backdrop in these shots you can see the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a floating museum built on an aircraft carrier. The Intrepid was where I visited a Space Shuttle in August 2012.

Here I am at Santacon 2012, with one of the best Santas I’ve ever seen:

Here I am yesterday at Santacon 2012. The guy standing next to me looked the most authentic of any of the thousands of Santas in attendance, even though he wasn't actually wearing a traditional Santa suit.

The guy standing next to me here looked the most authentic of any of the thousands of Santas in attendance, even though he wasn’t actually wearing a traditional Santa suit.

One of the things that makes Santacon so special is the boundless creativity displayed by the participants. Sure, the folks in Santa suits will always be at the heart of the event; but it’s fun to see some of the alternative themes that attendees come up with.

This delightful Victorian couple gets bonus points for originality.

This delightful Victorian couple gets bonus points for originality.

It's everyone's favourite talking bear, Ted!

It’s everyone’s favourite talking bear, Ted!

A cardinal palling around with a Christmas tree is no odder than many of the other scenes that take place at Santacon.

A cardinal palling around with a Christmas tree is no odder than many of the other scenes that take place at Santacon.

This Santa shared some words of wisdom.

This Santa shared some words of wisdom.

It's the world's most giant Santa!

It’s the world’s most giant Santa!

I found Waldo! Next to him is a dreidel, representing the many Santacon costumes that celebrate Hanukkah.

I found Waldo! Next to him is a dreidel, representing the many Santacon goers whose costumes celebrate Hanukkah.

A gorilla, an elf, and a Hanukkah guy.

A gorilla, an elf, and a Hanukkah guy.

One of the strangest sights at this year’s Santacon was a Santa with a horse’s head.

One of the strangest sights at this year's Santacon was a Santa with a horse's head.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course!

It turned out that there were actually not one, but two equine Santas. And then things got really weird . . .

Giddyup!

Giddyup!

Some of the Santacon participants are truly not human:

How cute is this Santacon dog?

How cute is this Santacon dog?

No matter how many times I attend Santacon, it never gets old. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, there’s always a surprise in store. For example, this year a dodgeball game broke out among the Santas!


And although not as violent, the limbo session was also quite entertaining:


Eventually, the time came for the Santas to proceed to the next zone, consisting of some nightclubs and bars in the Hell’s Kitchen area.

Santas heading from the initial location to the pedestrian overpass to cross 12th Avenue.

Santas heading from the initial location to the pedestrian overpass to cross 12th Avenue.

The Gingerbread Man is always a personal favourite.

The Gingerbread Man is always a personal favourite.

Santas queuing up

The long lines to get into a couple of clubs on 46th Street, as the drinking gets underway at 11 a.m. (Well, it got underway earlier for those Santas who BYOB’d it at the Santacon starting point.)

Santas partying on one of the very crowded dance floors in the Hudson Terrace nightclub -- at about noon.

Santas partying on one of the very crowded dance floors in the Hudson Terrace nightclub — at about noon.

Hanging out on the club's outdoor terrace: At left is Ralphie from the classic holiday film, "A Christmas Story!" (Some of the more ignorant attendees thought he was supposed to be the Easter Bunny.)

Hanging out on the club’s outdoor terrace: At left is Ralphie from the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story! (Some of the more ignorant attendees mistook him for the Easter Bunny.)

From there, the Santas fanned out to midtown. I decided to walk to Times Square, the Crossroads of the World. On my way, I ran into an individual reprising his role from last year’s Santacon: the birthday boy himself!

One of my favourite characters from last year's Santacon, the birthday boy himself, was back!  Apparently, although not mentioned in any of the Gospels, Jesus was a smoker.

Although not mentioned in any of the Gospels, Jesus was apparently a smoker.

The thing about being in Times Square is that you can’t tell whether a costumed person has anything to do with Santacon. There are, of course, the Elmos, Mickey Mouses, and Spongebobs who pose for photographs with tourists (for a fee), 365 days a year. I’m not sure whether this next guy fits into that category, or whether he was taking part in Santacon. I also have no idea who he’s trying to be; if he’s a film or television character, it’s not one that I’m familiar with.

I'm not sure whether this person is supposed to be a monster, or a space alien, or something else.

I’m not sure whether this person is supposed to be a monster, or a space alien, or something else.

As with previous Santacons, the red TKTS steps in Times Square made a fine gathering place.

Santas on the TKTS steps in Times Square, along with some tourists who annoyingly insisted on crowding into the frame.

Santas, plus a pair of chocolate chip cookies, on the TKTS steps in Times Square.

This Santa has gone over to the dark side.

This Santa has gone over to the dark side.

As with last year, one of the most impressive outfits belonged to Robbie, the human fireplace.  Once again, she used an iPad to provide a virtual Yule log.

As with last year, one of the most impressive outfits belonged to Robbie, the human fireplace. Once again, she used an iPad to generate a virtual Yule log.

As the day turned into evening, the Santacon action shifted to the East Village. I checked out a couple of bars in that neighbourhood, where I met some more interesting characters. One of them was Count von Count from Sesame Street, but sadly I screwed up my picture-taking of him, and I have no suitable image of the Count to share with you.

So anyway, on Saturday morning I was fretting that soon I may be too old to continue going to Santacons. But Andy (shown below with his wife Jennifer), proves that the true spirit of Santacon is something that need never be outgrown. As a gentleman, I won’t reveal Andy’s age; but he graciously agreed to be photographed for this blog post to illustrate the principle that you’re never too old for Santacon! He’s an inspiration to me, that’s for sure.

Meet Andy and his wife Jennifer.

Meet Andy and his wife Jennifer, part of a large contingent from Long Island who came into Manhattan to take part in Santacon.

Bringing the day’s festivities to a close was the traditional afterparty. The Santacon afterparty for 2012 was held at a club called Warsaw in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Greenpoint is a Polish enclave, and Warsaw offers pierogies, kielbasa, and Polish beer in addition to the usual drink choices.

The main dance floor in Warsaw during the Santacon afterparty.

The main dance floor in Warsaw during the Santacon afterparty.

By the way, there was reportedly a couple at Warsaw on Saturday night who were considerably older than Andy. Sadly, I didn’t run across them myself. But the main reason I’m disappointed in not meeting them is that they were giving out absinthe to other partygoers! Still, I enjoyed the afterparty.

This guy was carrying around a prop that he called "Camel Mistletoe." He cheerfully admitted that he was stoned when he came up with the idea.

This guy was carrying around a prop that he called “Camel Mistletoe.” He cheerfully admitted that he was stoned when he came up with the idea.

It's the Virgin Mary as a single mother! Joseph was nowhere to be seen.

It’s the Virgin Mary as a single mother! Joseph was nowhere to be seen.

Then she started nursing the future Saviour.  So wrong! :)

Then she started nursing the baby Jesus. This was so wrong . . .

And finally: the vast majority of Santacon participants wear costumes connected to Christmas, and you can always count on spotting a sizable minority with Hanukkah themes. But I’d never seen someone at Santacon honouring the up-and-coming holiday of Festivus — until now. Meet Heather, who inexplicably insists that you call her “Chuck”:

For the rest of us.

Paying tribute to Festivus.

In five years of going to Santacon, I still have yet to find a participant wearing a Kwanzaa-related outfit. Maybe that will finally happen in 2013!

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Categories: North America, travel | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Santacon 2012: a photo and video essay

  1. David C.

    The giant cube with teeth is Domo, mascot of NHK’s children’s programming. See also http://www.nhk.or.jp/domo/ and its much-less-cool English-language site: http://www.domonation.com/

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    • @David C: I could respond by asking: “What’s NHK?” 🙂 But that would just further show my ignorance of the world of children’s programming . . .

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      • David C.

        At the risk of answering a question asked in jest, NHK is one of Japan’s big TV networks.

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  2. Loving all the photos of the starting point and Santa march! We got so lucky with the warm winter weather!

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    • @Koren: You may recall that the next day (Sunday), it was cold and rainy. So yeah, I was definitely thinking on Sunday that we had lucked out with the Santacon weather!

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  3. Fabulous photos! I really have to get out and try this Santa-con next year! And totally agree, the Santa without the suit on is definitely the most authentic one I’ve ever seen! Cheers to a happy 2013!:-)

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    • @Jess: Thanks! Santacon is always such a fun time — you should definitely go! And if you click on the photo of the “authentic” Santa, you can see that he actually found this blog and left a comment! (He left a comment on the photo, which I didn’t even know people could do).

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  4. WCBFF

    OMG, too funny. Dodgeball Santas is a winner. So random. Great footage ya got. I like the very first Santa portrayed in your article.

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