Blog: Santacon

Guest post by Nadia Ramoul

Ah, Christmas.

With every year that passes we are older, grumpier and more prone to waking up confused and hungover at 10 on Christmas Day rather than bounding down the stairs at the crack of dawn. An inevitable part of growing up; where once we unwrapped our choicest picks from the Argos catalogue we now receive socks, deodorant and the odd gift card for a shop we never, never frequent. Where the day was once spent in a swirl of mirth, glee and chocolate coins we now nap through the inevitable showing of Ice Age 2, drooling into our Christmas jumpers and only stirring to refill our glasses with the bitterest red wine. Oh, hallelujah! The Lord is come and so forth.

In one of the bleakest years to be a young person in the UK, in which every other week has felt punctuated by a cut, a march, some unnecessary violence or a catastrophic political gaffe by a Tory MP, there isn’t much to celebrate.

Christmas could easily go past barely noticed, another grey season like any other.  But lo!  Do not fear unhappy campers, one Saturday in December, every year thousands of Santas (or Santae, to use to correct plural) descend upon the unsuspecting streets of London to march, be merry, consume copious amounts of alcohol and spread their festive cheer far and wide, whether the city wants them to or not.Yes, the 10th of this month was the annual Santacon.

Santacon has been going for a while now, it’s participants steadily increasing in number each year with ever changing routes and afterparties. It began in San Francisco with sponsorship from surrealist group The Cacophany Society as a festive companion piece to their performance art pranks. While a few subsequent Santacons in Portland went a tad askew (drunk Santae terrorising families etc, now immortalised in Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘Rant’) for the most part they have been peaceful, fun and a fine way to let rip in public without getting arrested or sectioned.

For London, there is no charitable cause or message behind Santacon, no protestation on the commercialization of Christmas – just an excuse for a big party. It’s somewhat heartening to see a mass of people take to the streets without the sense of rage and injustice that 2011’s many protests have had at their heart. Sometimes folk just want to buy a cheap fake beard and scale Nelson’s column at midday wielding  two litres of Strongbow and a plastic rifle. Is that so wrong?

No. It’s great.

There are Santacons all over the world under varying guises and aims with the main site reporting 227 locations in 23 countries. Our cheery London one consists of a pub crawl, carol singing and sprout fights around the city’s landmarks culminating in a huge afterparty, this time at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes. Like a big red flashmob minus choreographed moves and T-Mobile sponsorship, for one day the city crawls with beards and red pyjamas. Santas are encouraged to bring gifts for passing kids (though I imagine most would run screaming into the streets when confronted with such a mass)

This year was my third Santacon, and it’s gradually becoming a day I look forward to just as much or even moreso than the big day itself. My poor efforts at Santafication pale in comparison to most there, but the festival atmosphere and positive feeling of the event means even the most hastily crafted festive attire is welcome and passers by are invited to join the crowd. This year Santa marched from Victoria to Trafalgar Square, through the crowds in Soho and onto Bloomsbury. In 2010 factions came from North, East and West London culminating to party together in the centre. Each year it is different but reassuringly familiar.

 The next Santacon will be on the 15th December 2012. All are welcome! (Just avoid the elves…) For more information check out the Santacon blog. Many thanks to my good buddies Mark Kuggeleijn (Tactical Santa) and Becky Kirby (Maroon Santa) for letting us use their photos.