My husband and I recently took our first trip away together without our baby.
We went to New York City during the most magical time of year to see all the usual Christmas sights.
We saw the giant Unicef snowflake twinkling on 5th Avenue, the Rockettes tapping and kicking at Radio City Music Hall, the decorated store windows bringing fanciful winter dreamscapes to life, and hundreds of drunken Santa Clauses overrunning the streets.
At first we thought the Santa-thing was an odd coincidence. We were seeing four or five together at a time, which seemed a bit above average, even for the week before Christmas.
At each intersection we crossed, the crowds became redder, jollier and quite a bit more bearded.
It wasn’t long before we were engulfed in a sea of red Santa suits, and wishing we were dressed to match.
We found ourselves smack in the middle of SantaCon NYC 2012.
SantaCon, also known as Santa Rampage, Santarchy, Santapalooza, etc., is an annual gathering of folks who dress up like Santa to troll the streets of a chosen city or town, spreading good cheer, singing naughty carols, supporting local charities, and guzzling down the liquid form of holiday spirit.
The tradition is described on numerous Web sites as a "not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-logical Santa Claus convention, attended for absolutely no reason."
This is not a wacky American thing. It was actually started by the Danes in 1974. According to SantaCon.info, there are 14 Canadian cities participating this year, including Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, P.E.I.
My husband and I theorized that perhaps SantaCon was once an actual Santa conference held by professional Santa Clauses that ironic hipsters hijacked into a mega pubcrawl.
After a quick Wikipedia search, I learned that SantaCon was originally created to protest the rampant consumerism during the holiday season. The surrealist movement, and guerilla street theater heavily influenced the SantaCon gathering. It also used to feature the macabre tradition of hanging a Santa in effigy.
But in recent years, SantaCon has set aside its subversive roots to encourage silliness, creativity, merrymaking, and general flirtation.
I suppose in a crowd of fat Santas, Chanukah Santas, random Easter bunnies, slacker Santas (these guys just don the hat), scantily clad Mrs. Clauses and sexy helper elves, love connections are bound to happen.
At lunch, we sat next to two Santas having an awkward first date.
A nice guy Santa wearing a red blazer, and a tie with Christmas lights embroidered on it seemed to be imagining how he’d tell all his friends he met the love of his life at SantaCon.
His less enthusiastic date was wearing one of the Santa getups you find in the lingerie department.
She gazed longingly out the window at a more rakish sunglasses-wearing, cigarette-smoking Santa.
Half way through appetizers, she was certain she’d chosen the wrong Santa.
My husband and I enjoy people watching, and Santa watching in New York City was more entertaining that we could have ever imagined.
But we both felt a bit wistful. We’d bedeck ourselves in fake velvet too, if we were just a few years younger, and cooler, and more, well, single.
“Maybe SantaCon will come to Newfoundland one day,” my husband said.
“Maybe, “ I replied. “But who needs hundreds of Santas, when you’ve got mummers?”