• Mon, Dec 16 - 8:00 am ET

The Existence of SantaCon Is Yet Another Reason Why I Don’t Tell My Kids That Santa Claus Is Real

shutterstock_121934734Well before my husband and I made our adult home in Manhattan, I was born and raised in the boroughs of NYC.  So after spending a few years in Los Angeles, I was thrilled to see that nothing changed while we were gone. Our neighborhood deli was still in business, Times Square shone bright enough to see from our apartment across town and the 6 train was still packed to the point of inducing claustrophobia in the mornings. It wasn’t until that winter in 2008 that I noticed something had changed – SantaCon In Manhattan had arrived.

If you don’t know what SantaCon is, you’re not alone. There aren’t a lot of details about the festivities, but everyone knows this: one Saturday before Christmas thousands of 20-somethings dressed as Santa, Mrs. Claus, reindeer or elves swarm the streets — and drinking establishments — of Manhattan in a bar crawl that instantly rivaled St. Patrick’s Day on the Upper East Side. The party starts early in the day and lasts for hours — or for as long as a certain Santa’s alcohol tolerance holds out.

At first spotting, my kids get really excited to see a mass of red and white outfits looming around the city. “Look, there are a whole lot of Santas!” they exclaimed last year as we drove through Hell’s Kitchen on our way to the city’s main post office. The Santas waved and cheered and my kids were beyond thrilled. “Are they here delivering toys?” my then-three-year-old asked. No, they are just going to bars to get drunk. Ok, so I didn’t say that out loud. They’ll understand for themselves in a decade or two.

An hour later as we drove through the neighborhood a second time, two taxis pulled along on either side of our car. My kids waived and yelled and one girl pulled down her Mrs. Claus scoopneck and flashed us. Oh boy, I thought. Let’s just get inside.

This year I thought we’d be pretty shielded on account of the freezing cold and the nasty snowstorm. But no, my son spotted one just two blocks from our house. “Is something wrong with Santa?” “Oh no! Santa is so sick!” my two-year-old exclaimed pointing at the man puking outside a bar on our way to an early dinner. “Is he not going to bring our presents on Christmas?” my son demanded.

“Santa isn’t that guy. Or the guy at your school. Remember I told you Santa isn’t any real person. He’s just a magical idea.” I tell them as I hurry them along.

I’m not hating on SantaCon. When I was young and single these kind of organized party events were just my style. One of my personal favorites — a total head-scratcher now that I look back on it — was Patriot’s Day in Boston. We’d start drinking as soon as we woke up and by the time the Boston Marathon found its way past our dorms we’d be lit up and cheering our hearts out for those superior athletes. A fine tradition it was.

But I’m not young and single and running with those crowds anymore.  Instead I’ve got two kids living in the city who ask a lot of questions. So SantaCon gets added to my list of 100 reasons why I don’t tell my kids that Santa is real. Because when you’ve seen as many boob-flashing, vomiting, urinating and falling down drunk Santas as my four-year-old and two-year-olds have already seen in their young lives, the truth about the dude in the red and white suit starts to look a whole lot better.

(photo: Donald Bowers Photography / Shutterstock.com)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • Kay_Sue

    Well. I love bar crawls, and zombie crawls, and leprechaun crawls (mostly for laughing at people far more drunk than myself)…but a Santa crawl…yeah, I’d probably tell my kids the truth too.

  • brebay

    Eh, I’d probably just tell my kids that people like to dress up like Santa at Christmastime, but whatever works.

  • EX

    I’m not judging your decision – do whatever feels right for you – but I think I would just tell my kids that those are just people who like to dress up as Santa for fun, like how people dress up on Halloween. But I get that seeing someone even just dressed as Santa stumbling around drunk/puking/flashing people would be confusing for a kid and, like you, I’d definitely try to minimize my kids’ exposure to that.

    ETA: I also have no intention of trying to convince my kids that the mall Santa, or the one that comes to daycare, or the one they saw at the christmas tree lot are real. The real Santa only comes on Christmas Eve when the kids are sleeping.

    • Jessica

      I went in your direction with the Santa thing, because my kids were really confused about all of the Santas all over the place. We discussed them being “helpers” and that the real Santa is too busy for that stuff, so he’ll visit you Christmas Eve

    • Carinn Jade

      This definitely isn’t the only reason, just one silly one of 100.

  • Megan Zander

    I saw this! I was in the city with some girlfriends a couple years ago and suddenly, GCT was filled with Santas. I got really excited, because I thought it was a flash mob and they were going to dance, but then I asked a Mrs. Claus and she told me the truth. :( it was like finding out Santa isn’t real all over again.

  • CMJ

    Santacon makes me dislike bros even more than I possible could….Santa? He’s still cool in my books.

  • Cee

    Ive barely come to realize how big a deal believing/not believing in Santa is in parent hood. I grew up somewhat poor, I didn’t believe. My cousins did. Were pretty equally jaded people, but I highly doubt it has to do with believing in this dude or not. Though I always thought it was hilarious that my cousins thought Santa was god’s brother. That was a fun picture in my mind.

  • CrazyLogic

    A family friend took her kid to New York that day a few years ago. Her kid actually loved seeing all the people that loved Santa so much, they dressed like him and got really…”happy” about it.

    She’s still a firm believer.

  • Alicia Kiner

    I’m actually at the point where I wish my kids would STOP believing, because I’m sick of lying about it. BUT, at the same time, I don’t want to tell them I lied. We never really pushed it. Like we never do the cookies for Santa and veggies for reindeer, they’ve gotten their pictures taken with Santa once in their lives and that was this year (for free I might add), we don’t have them write letters to Santa, or any of that. The biggest thing that’s been done is they get presents from “Santa” on Christmas day, but they’ve always been brought to my in-laws house. I always wanted them to believe in the magic, but I guess I never knew really how to teach them about it. Although, I’m glad I don’t live in the city. Cuz about the first time my kids got flashed, I’d probably be thrown in jail for assault. Really? IDC how drunk you are, you should know better than whip your tits out to a couple of toddlers

    • Carinn Jade

      Someone please call in Maria Guido for the epic comment of the week here!!! That last line is a doozy!

  • Santacon Hater

    Santacon is undoubtedly NYC at its worst. People can complain about the congestion and the city being dangerous, but in reality those those are mostly of the past. NYC is now a big wealthy enclave that handles holidays, sporting events, crowds and traffic better than most any place in the world.

    Exhibit A

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i9-jEm2hIw

  • pineapplegrasss

    I seriously just hate the SantaLie. Santa brings dinky little dollar store presents to my house. I buy the kids the good shit!