New York City is a top holiday destination, known for its decorated department store windows, the tree at Rockefeller Center, and the Radio City Rockettes.
And in recent years, SantaCon has become another fixture of Christmas in the city. That’s the large and controversial gathering of revelers in Santa costumes. Participants are asked to donate $10 to charity and receive updates via text and social media to see where the pub-crawl is headed. Groups of Santas can be spotted all over the city, from 10 a.m. to last call.
The tradition began more than 20 years ago in San Francisco, but New York City is reportedly home to the largest SantaCon gathering. It rose to prominence in the East Village, has been in Hell’s Kitchen and Williamsburg, and this year the Flatiron was its epicenter. For a complete history, check out this 2014 cover story from the Village Voice.
Travel + Leisure sent New York City-based photographer Jackson Krule into the fray on Saturday. He found not only a sea of Santas, but also elves, reindeer, a candy cane, and a towering Abominable Snowman. One of his favorite costumes was a Christmas tree on stilts, ready with sassy remarks for anyone who didn’t realize there was a person inside. Jackson’s first SantaCon experience a few years back was an unwelcome line of Santas outside his apartment at the unusual reveling hour of 11 a.m. Though he did witness some scenes that aren’t fit to publish, Jackson remarked that he also saw many acts of kindness. Santas would high-five and “Ho-Ho-Ho” for awe-struck children who happened upon the scene. He even saw a crew of Santas help a senior citizen get her shopping cart over the curb. Nonetheless, when asked if he will return to SantaCon next year, he says, “Only to photograph it.”
So, is it a good-natured expression of holiday cheer, or a debauched blight on the holiday season? We’ll let you be the judge.