Everything You Need to Know About SantaCon 2018

Jessica Nemire

Everything You Need to Know About SantaCon 2018

People dressed in Santa suits celebrate SantaCon 2014 in Union Square in San Francisco.

If you’re in San Francisco this Saturday, you’re going to meet Santa Claus.

Actually, you’re going to meet 17,000 Santa Clauses.

SantaCon, the annual event in which people dress up as Santa and roam the streets of any participating city, was inspired by a protest by a Danish performance art group in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1974 and started in San Francisco in 1994.

This Saturday, December 8th, you’ll be able to meet Santa in many cities worldwide, including Berlin, Germany; London, England; New York City and, of course, right here in San Francisco.

In previous years, San Francisco’s Santa Clauses have gathered in Union Square around noon for a costume contest singalong led by Santa Claus’s official organizer, who goes by the name of “Santa Tom.” Participants were also encouraged to bring a new children’s toy to donate to the toy drive that the San Francisco Fire Department hosts every year.

After the initial meeting in Union Square, SantaCon becomes a daytime bar crawl. Almost every bar near Union Square will be flooded with partiers in Santa gear, as will bars in the Marina District, North Beach, and all along Polk Street.

This year, however, the city of San Francisco did not grant Santa Tom’s SantaCon (say that five times fast, I dare you) the sound permit he requested to hold 17,000 Santas in Union Square. This is because the City had already given a permit to two other ongoing events taking place in Union Square: the annual Christmas tree and the ice skating rink.

“The City and County of San Francisco has decreed that in their view, SantaCon has no place in San Francisco,” Santa Tom stated on the official SantaCon website, “and the gathering should be shut down because ‘there is a safety issue and Union Square cannot hold the people’.”

Even though it’s not officially permitted by the city, if 17,000 people want to dress up like Santa and get drunk - well, 17,000 people are probably still going to do that.

Santa Tom also clarified on the website that “SantaCon is not cancelled! The only thing canceled is my participation in organization efforts.”

He said that there will be no singalong or costume contest, but he still encourages participants to being a new, unwrapped children’s toy for the fire department’s toy drive and leave it with him by the stage area.

If this is your first time in San Francisco, you might as well throw on a Santa suit and check out the festivities, even if the event is not approved by the city.

Didn’t pack a Santa suit? How dare you! Joking. Never fear! The discount store Daiso sells Santa suits for less than $6 each. There is a Daiso on Market Street conveniently located less than ten minutes from our hostel on foot. Call them first to make sure they still have Santa suits in stock.

Also, the item that says “Santa apron” is, in fact, an apron. Yours truly made this mistake last year and purchased it thinking it was a dress, because it was only $3 and seemed too good to pass up. I ended up wearing it over a red dress anyway, so it was all good.

Once you are armed with your Santa getup, either meet up with all the other Santa rebels at noon at Union Square, or mosey down to any bar in the nearby vicinity at any point during the day to join in the festivities.

If you are in the mood to bar-hop, Polk Street is a great place to go.

If you are on a budget and not prepared to buy a bunch of drinks, don’t worry - basically any street in the general downtown/SoMa/FiDi area will be flooded with Santas on Saturday, so you can join the party just by stepping outside.

In every city it graces, the official SantaCon is a free event. Any other Santa-themed bar crawl or event wanting you to pay to participate is a different thing. You’re of course welcome to pay for a bar crawl, but the official SantaCon is free and budget backpacker-friendly.

Important note: as with any other event that involves drinking, SantaCon has been known to get rowdy. Participants will frequently get much too drunk and cause a scene.

If you do join in the fun, please remember to be respectful. Some bars choose not to participate in the event, and will have a “NO SANTAS” sign on the door and window. Only go where other Santas are, be nice to those around you, and try to spread joy and cheer, just like the real Santa Claus would want. Wherever he is.

If you want nothing to do with SantaCon this Saturday, ditch the Santa suit and escape to the woods. All the Redwood State Parks in California offer free admission on the second Saturday of each month, so this is the last Free Parks Day in 2018. Check out this list of participating parks.

Alternatively, you can head to Golden Gate Park around 11 a.m. for some free outdoor yoga, or check out the free "block party and cookie crawl" on Valencia and 16th Streets from noon until 8 p.m.





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