What is Santacon?

Short answer: a convention of Santas.

Santacon is the more or less standard name for a gathering of people dressed as Santa. The term was first coined in 1996 when the San Francisco Cacophony Society, having had two Santa gatherings/ Santa Rampages/ Santarchy/ Red Menace/ etc. events teamed up with the Portland Cacophony Society for a weekend long Santa CONvention, a kinder, gentler event than a Santa RAMPAGE.

What’s the difference between Santacon, Santarchy, etc?

Short answer: not much

Santacon is the most common term used. Santarchy is often used interchangeably, but may either refer to a crazier version of the event (based on the commonly misunderstood usage of “anarchy”) or a more socially conscious version (based on the idea of anarchism as a leaderless system of fairness and freedom, for instance Portland Santarchy 2013 started at an Anarchist Cafe and goes to do socially conscious events…they’ve asked not to be publicized, which is why they’re not listed.)

Who is in charge?

Santa. Trust in Santa.

Note that the Santas who have been working on this for weeks or years may have better plans than drunk Santa who just showed up.

Also, if someone is asking you to pay them, they’re probably not the real Santa.

How do I be Santa?

Dress like Santa or something Santish. A Santa hat and street clothes does not count. If you don’t have and/or want a Santa suit consider if your outfit makes the story better or worse. “I saw 100 Santas, one of them was wearing a red and white tuxedo and they had reindeer and a frosty” trumps “I saw these people, they had some Santas with them.” If  you have to choose between a Chicken costume and a Santa hat or jeans, a hoodie and a Santa hat, be Santa Chicken.

Santa is not about Santa. Santa is about presents. Ask not what Santa can do for you, ask what…I lost track of what I was saying. Anyway, bring toys, gifts, candy. The difference between a Santacon where you give out even just candy canes and not can be amazing. A handy guide to gifts:

Unwrapped: Candy, stuffed animals, etc: everyone knows what it is. (Great for small kids with parents nearby)
Wrapped normally: mutant toys or the unexpected, something weird but you won’t get arrested for it. Only presents you’d give an 8 year old or your grandma.
Wrapped white side out: anything you should only give to consenting adults over 21.

Dress like you’ll be outside half the day and inside half the day and walking long distances.

See the four fucks, get consent, be awesome.

Wait, Mutant Toys?

Yep, we have mutant toymaking workshops. The standard model is going to the Goodwill Outlet Center (aka “the Bins”), buying all the sad toys, breaking them, and gluegunning them together in new, creative ways. Googly eyes are always a plus. No glitter, glitter is the herpes of the craft world.

Is Santacon a pub crawl?

Santacon is a pub crawl the way Burning Man can be called a camping trip or attending your sister’s wedding can be  called “Dinner with my family”. It’s not WRONG, it just oversimplifies something much bigger. Each Santacon might have different parts, but in addition to drinking, Santa may dance, play pranks, gift wrap things, catapult things, do community service, have playground games, watch movies, etc. Yes, Santa goes to bars. But you can go to bars any day. If the only appeal Santacon has for you is drinking, you’re missing the bigger picture.

What’s the route?

That’s not…and never has been…how it works. Even to the extent the route is planned, it is always more of a suggestion than a guided tour. Asking where Santa will be at 5pm is saying “I see you’re having an event with somewhere between 20-1000 people showing up, and many will be drunk. Please tell me an accurate prediction of their exact movements so I can show up when it’s convenient for me.” While some folks have organized similar events and treat them like a Disney ride with predictable starts and stops (sometimes even with admission fees and sponsors!) the original idea of Santacon is to be on an adventure, not a guided tour of bars.

Find out the start point and show up. If you can’t make it to the start point, look into who will be coming, make friends with them, show them that you’re an interesting person they want to meet, and make plans with them. This is a social event, an experiment, a way to push YOUR OWN boundaries. Don’t expect or rely on unpaid organizers to cater to you. Radical self-reliance and all. (And drink water, hippie!)

Be willing to have an adventure, even if it isn’t the adventure you set out on. Some of the best Santacon stories are not “I was surrounded by 200 Santas” stories, but “So, Jenn and I were dressed like Santa, going up to random strangers asking if they saw the other Santas…”

Is this an exclusive club then or something that you don’t want to make it easy for people to show up?

Maybe. Or maybe it’s like a bunch of Santas put a lot of work into a great idea they want to share with folks, but that doesn’t mean they’ve signed up to babysit every frat boy and Nike employee who wants to pretend to be interesting for a day. Santa has learned how hard this is the hard way.

Some ideas of how to befriend Santas other than a last-minute email to ask about the route:
* Send a longer email like you would write a friend. Introduce yourself, be helpful and nice.
* Attend some of the smaller earlier events, like Summer Santacon, or the year-specific ones in smaller towns, etc.

Is this a company? Who pays for this?

No. There have been and surely will be companies who use terms like “Santacon”. Even more will use the easy enough idea of connecting Santa suits with drinking. We’re not them, they’re not Santa. Santacon itself doesn’t AND NEVER HAS had a cover fee, nor has gotten official sponsors, although companies may give us stuff. Santa either paid for something himself or found a way to get it for free. You know, gifts.

Is this a charitable event?

No. It’s just fun. Many of us are involved with charities and nonprofits, and there may be some gray area about Santa-themed charitable events put on by the same folks, but the official and traditional Santas who run Santacon in Portland Oregon officially just do it to do it.