I've heard all of the crazy stories about the New York SantaCon, the hundreds of people dressed like ole' Saint Nick, drinking themselves blind and slurring carols around the city.
Having been in the states for a couple months, away from my native Denmark, I was interested in separating myth from reality from what has become an international pub-crawl.
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First things first, I had to prep for SantaCon—sort of like preparing for a marathon. What shoes should I wear? Would it be best to bring protein bars or fruit with me? Will people laugh at my Santa Claus costume?
After I dressed suitably for the weather—lots of snow—I jumped on the subway and headed to the East Village to meet up with the revelers.
I must say I was relieved when I came across my first fellow Santa heading into Manhattan. After getting a lot of weird looks from strangers I was starting to think I had gotten the date wrong.
The red outfit is definitely an icebreaker. This other Santa fills me in on where to go in the East Village, though my "Danish girl new at SantaCon" gimmick doesn’t buy me an invite to join him and his friends.
The minute I step out in the East Village I'm surrounded by red. Hundreds of Santas of all shapes and sizes swarm around me. Finally, I've found where I belong! Within no time, I've met a group of Santas who have been coming to Santacon for years. They promise to show me around and we end up at the Crocodile Lounge on 14th Street, pounding beers.
As they drink, the Santas wax philosophical about the event. Ronald, 26, tells me why he participates. "SantaCon is the best holiday of the year. Everybody is Santa. No judgments," he said.
After a couple more beers, I decide to split off from the group and find some Santas heading for Brooklyn.
I stop to ask a trashed polar bear for directions to Union Square. Unfortunately, the guy in the suit is so wasted he doesn’t seem to understand what I’m saying.
I manage to find Union Square without his help. There, another Santa Claus comes up and says, "Are you my soul mate? I'm looking for a Mrs. Claus and I think you are her."
His name is Rich and the line is terrible. But he and his friends are on their way to Brooklyn so I decide to tag along. We only make it as far as Borough Hall before realizing nobody knows where we are going.
The group emerges from the subway and we take a McDonald's break. Not long after, we decided to chase a lead that the Santas are heading to Nostrand Ave. and "Santa's Toy Factory."
My "soul mate" and I join hundreds of other Santas, filling up the subway on our unholy pilgrimage.
By the time we get to "Santa's Toy Factory," the line stretches down the block.
It's only 4 p.m., but the thought of standing in an hour-long line way too sober makes me repeat what I heard a drunken Santa say earlier – "I quit."
It's freezing outside and I start to wish that I had drank more alcohol to keep warm.