Naughty or nice, SantaCon revelers descend on New York

Sat Dec 12, 2015 1:03pm EST
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By Alexander Besant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of merrymakers dressed like Santa Claus and his elves assembled in a Brooklyn park on Saturday morning to begin the annual pub crawl known as SantaCon, a Yuletide rite with a reputation for inspiring bad behavior among the revelers.

Organizers expect thousands of others eventually to join the day-long party, with more than 14,000 people signing up to participate on the SantaCon NYC Facebook page.

Terance McNamara, 25, of Hoboken, New Jersey, was one of the early birds who gathered in the New York borough's hip Williamsburg neighborhood dressed in a bright red Santa suit to start a day of bar-hopping.

"This is my first SantaCon so I wanted to see what they do in the beginning," said McNamara, who works in pharmaceutical marketing. "I'm just here to have fun and be a part of something."

Last year, some city officials urged bar and restaurant owners to boycott the event for fear of rowdiness, vomiting and public urination, which has marred some of the events in the past. But the backlash appears to have eased as organizers have worked to re-brand the event as a good-spirited fundraiser for charity.

"We are trying to transit from what SantaCon was to something more positive for this year and in the future," said Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who is working with the organizers.

The event originated in San Francisco more than 20 years ago as a boozy, tongue-in-cheek protest against the commercialization of Christmas.

"SantaCon is a cultural public commentary on the Christmas season, from a critique of consumerism to cultural and charitable giving," said Siegel, who regards SantaCon as an exercise in free speech. "It's part satire and has an edge."   Continued...

Revelers dressed in Santa Claus and other holiday themed outfits take part in the annual SataCon event in the Brooklyn borough of New York, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid