A sea of red and white coats rancorously swarm down thousands of streets. Hundreds of people, dressed as Santa Claus, scream and sing as they drink heavily, form impromptu dance parties, and crowd public transportation.
So goes the scene in various videos of SantaCon, a yearly world-wide celebration where anyone is welcome to dress in a Santa Claus suit en masse. Approaching the 21st anniversary of its conception in the United States, the event thrives despite controversy; in some communities and local governments there have even been battles to get the celebration banned. Participating New York City bars, readying themselves for the celebration on December 12th, may even put their licenses on the line pending SantaCon behavior.
But this event didn’t start out this way. As John Law, founding SantaCon member, told The Village Voice, it started in good “whimsical fun,” with all the trappings of ‘90s social activism. Thirty-five members of the Cacophony Society, a group of San Franciscan surrealist artists, began the parade in 1994 as a small, concerted effort to shock people at holiday parties and on the street, a sort of punch in the face to typical Christmas expectations.