Several thousand Santas roaming the streets of London, laughing, joking, ho-ho-hoing – some inebriated, some just high on life… It’s the stuff of dreams (or perhaps nightmares) for kids and adults alike. Every December festive fun seekers get involved in one of the most unusual, entertaining events to take place in the capital during the Christmas period. Red suits and white beards fill the streets for SantaCon, which is somewhere between a pub crawl, a fancy dress parade and, for some, a way to reclaim the festive season from the rampant consumerism.
The Santa-based gathering has it roots in the US, where a subversive group of fun seekers got the sleigh bells ringing back in 1994. The Cacophony Society, as they’re known, were inspired by the story of Danish activists Solvognen, who assembled a rogue group of Santas to infiltrate a department store and hand out items from the shelves as ‘presents’. Everyone was arrested but the 1974 rebellion has left a huge legacy. Twenty years later the Cacophony Society conceived SantaCon, the first of which was described as “a kind of rampage through San Francisco” by co-founder Michael Mikel. Since then it’s maintained some of its unbridled energy, with thousands signing up every year to take to the streets and join in the festivities.
Aimed at putting a very big, anarchic twist on a character who’s considered to be the key symbol of Christmas, SantaCon epitomised the rebellious counterculture that the Cacophony Society sought to encourage through its many endeavours (which includes the conception of Burning Man). In fact some claim that the infamous Christmas Camp at Burning Man may have been partly responsible for inspiring SantaCon.
The absurd gathering takes place all over the world every year now, with SantaCons happening across the US, Europe and the rest of the world. London’s SantaCon takes place on December 8 and you can sign up here.
Merry, jubilant and extremely nonsensical. Expect the unexpected, from the behaviour of your fellow Santas and their barmy outfits to the fun and games initiated along the way. People get very creative and very silly, and everyone gets involved in one way or another. Come with an open mind and sense of fun and you’re bound to enjoy the experience.
When does it happen?
The dates and timings have already been announced – December 8, from 11am until 5pm – but the location is being kept secret for now. You must register for a ticket to find out where it will actually start. Tickets are free so head over to their website and add yourself to the Naughty List. In old school rave fashion, the details will be sent to participants on the day.
Who will I meet there?
What’s so amazing about SantaCon is that there really isn’t one type of person it appeals to. From groups of friends who turn up year after year to families and solo revellers who want to make new friends, it’s a bright red kaleidoscope of fun-loving, festive frolickers who want to munch mince pies, swig mulled wine and get merry with their fellow Santas.
Is there a charity aspect to the event?
Yes. This year SantaCon have teamed up with Christmas For Kids to raise money and awareness over the festive season. Christmas For Kids create and perform shows for children in hospices. Those who make a donation with their ticket will be sent the meet-up details earlier than everybody else, so even more incentive to give a little to a very good cause. Organisers also encourage Santas to bring some pressies to give to children on the day.
Food and drink
Everyone knows what Santa loves to eat and drink; mince pies, sherry, mulled wine, yuletide log, gingerbread… everything he needs to help him on his merry way around the world delivering presents (or around the streets of London in this case). So make sure you pack your own sack of your supplies and bring some extra bits and pieces to share out among your fellow St. Nicks. Judging by previous years, a hip flask might come in handy.