Thousands of people in Santa Claus costumes will fill the streets and subways of New York tomorrow for the annual SantaCon, an event described by its organizers as"A CHARITABLE, NON-COMMERCIAL, NON-POLITICAL, NONSENSICAL SANTA CLAUS CONVENTION THAT HAPPENS ONCE A YEAR FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON."
The start location is always disclosed on santacon.com the night before. Folks sign up, show up for their badges and participant perks at 10 a.m., and follow the route texted to their phones. In costume.
This year instead of a food drive, SantaCon is asking for $10 donations to its charity fund, which will benefit New York Food Bank, FIGMENT Arts Festival, World Hoop Day, and local neighborhood charities along the route.
Also new this year: the organizers—and others—have set rules to prevent some of the problems that plagued past years. No urinating in public, no littering; don't pester kids, don't bother the cops (many of whom will be on hand); and don't mess with the staff at the bars. Oh—and don't drink more than Santa can handle.
"...this year we are cleaning up Santa’s act," they say in their website FAQ. "The Santa Secret Service will be in full effect, listen to them and follow their rules or….we’ve got a sharpshooter elf that will pick you off and put you down quicker than an icicle melting in July."
This year, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is cracking down as well. The MTA's announcement says:
To maintain orderly travel during this weekend’s SantaCon event, alcohol will not be permitted on Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains and stations from 12 noon on Saturday, December 14 through 12 noon on Sunday, December 15.
MTA Police Officers will be on duty at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and at train stations and on trains to enforce this restriction. The police will confiscate illegal liquor and issue summonses carrying fines up to $50 or 30 days imprisonment or both. Violators may also be subject to ejection from the train or station by police.
Although alcohol is generally allowed on Metro-North and the LIRR, earlier this year the LIRR instituted a permanent prohibition between midnight and 5 AM on Friday and Saturday nights. Both railroads have imposed temporary bans on occasion for the protection of customers and train crews.
SantaCon is an annual mass gathering of people dressed in Santa Claus costumes parading publicly on streets and in bars in cities around the world. The focus is on spontaneity and creativity, while having a good time and spreading cheer and goodwill. However, in past years some participants have been cited as a public nuisance. The MTA Police have effectively enforced open container infractions during past SantaCon celebrations.