This past weekend, the “annual drunken shit-show” formally known as SantaCon swept through New York City. SantaCon started in San Francisco in the 90s as a piece of “anti-consumerism performance art.” This early incarnation was an opportunity to comment on the fact that you cannot consume your way to happiness. Notwithstanding its noble beginnings, SantaCon has since devolved into a reason for millennials to dress like Santa Claus, get hammered, brawl, piss and vomit on the sidewalks.
With this knowledge in mind, my wife and I embarked on a holiday stroll with our 6-month-old twin girls. The coups de grâce of the evening featured a 20-something Santa adorned with what is commonly known as a “dick-in-a-box.” As we crossed paths with this Yuletide-themed casanova, he began projectile vomiting — all over his gifted junk. Had our girls been anywhere near the age of reason, we would’ve stayed home like many of our childrearing contemporaries.
If you’re a parent trying to foster a belief in the Santa myth in the 21st century, you’re facing an ever-increasing uphill battle. By comparison, my parents had it easy. As a child whose formative years spanned the 1980s, the potential spoilers I faced came in the form of TV, older children, and visits with the mall Santa. When I was in first grade, an older kid broke the news to me during an intense snowball fight — possibly as retaliation for a perfectly placed ice rocket to his midsection. That night, when I confronted my mom with my recess revelation, she didn’t feel right about continuing the lie. According to my mom, I took the news in stride, even claiming that I had doubted the story all along.
Nowadays, parents also have to deal with potential spoilers on the internet, social media, and the aforementioned SantaCon. Much like a child’s first exposure to a mall Santa, a young child exposed to the chaos of SantaCon will, at a minimum, be compelled to question Santa’s authenticity. Moreover, with SantaCon, not only do parents have to account for the existence of countless Santa clones, they also have to rationalize their abhorrent behavior.
“Mommy, why is Santa peeing in the street?”
“Mommy why did Santa raise his fist to Mrs. Claus?”
“Mommy, why is Santa in handcuffs?”
This past Sunday, as the Santa clones around the world were awaking to unfamiliar beds and partners, an Evangelical pastor was stirring the Christmas pot at a mall in Texas. That morning, he took it upon himself to announce to a line of children anxiously waiting to meet Kris Kringle that Santa Claus isn’t real. “The man you’re going to see today is just a man in a suit, dressed up like Santa, but Santa does not exist,” said Pastor Grisham.
Eventually several parents lost their cool and got out of line to confront him. “I’ve got my kids over there, we don’t need you coming over here blabbing whatever it is you’re blabbing,” one upset man told him. Ultimately, the pastor was asked to leave the premises for violating the mall’s code of conduct, which prohibits any kind of behavior that disturbs the peace, including annoying others.
You would be hard pressed to find even a single person who would side with Pastor Grisham — even amongst Evangelicals. Yet, for some reason we’re willing to put up with hoards of belligerent Santas spoiling the magic of Christmas. Just to clarify, I believe that Pastor Grisham and dick-in-a-box Santa stand on equally dubious moral footing. I actually have more respect for the likes of Pastor Grisham: If you’re going to spoil a child’s innocence, you should at least have some skin in the game.
SantaCon made its first appearance in NYC in 1998, “when 200 Santas went caroling up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan,” to the delight of passersby. While the original SantaCon still required parents to explain the existence of throngs of Santas, it also provided an opportunity to discuss the true spirit of Christmas. These days, however, parents are well-advised to stay indoors during SantaCon — unless they have a strong desire to introduce their impressionable young children to the high-art of Christmas-themed date rape.