Santacon is a non-proﬁt, non-political, non-religious and non-sensical Christmas parade that traditionally takes place in London one Saturday every December (see above for the date of the next one). There is no particular reason to dress up in Santa suits, run around, give gifts, sing songs, have strangers sit on our laps, and decide who is naughty or nice. But it’s a lot of fun so Santa does it anyway. Everyone loves Santa and Santa loves everyone!
Santacon has no membership and no leader, but it does have customs and traditions, which some Santas have written down here for the benefit of other Santas. Please make sure you read them before the day.
What actually happens on the day?
At a set time, Santas assemble at four different meeting places in London. Details are published here only twenty-four hours beforehand, but the time is usually about 11am and the locations always in central London. When assembled, the four groups of Santas each set off on a different route through London, spreading glad tidings, visiting famous landmarks, and enjoying the odd snifter along the way. Later, the groups converge into one big festive parade of Santas. Santa flag-bearers lead the way and Santa herders keep Santas on track. Lost or late Santas can find out where Santas will be next by checking the Santanav Twitter feeds.
For early Santas, there is the option of a trip to the cinema before the other Santae meet. For late-night Santas, there is the Finale Party. Details about these events and all other up-to-the-minute news about Santacon is published here and on Facebook.
- Christmas apparel is mandatory. A Santa hat is not enough. Buy a Santa suit. Make a Santa suit. Customise a Santa suit. Remember that reindeer and elves are welcome too. Be creative. Glue cotton balls to red long johns. Utilise Christmas decorations. If you don’t have any creativity, visit here to borrow some. And if you already have a Santa suit, bring spare parts for the Santaﬁcation of others.
- Santacon is about spreading goodwill and cheer, not being antisocial. Be Jolly! Be merry! Enjoy the surreal silliness of 1,000 Santas thronging the streets of London. But make sure your merriment doesn’t end up causing grief for others. Bad behaviour such as leaving litter, acting drunk and climbing on things is the opposite of spreading goodwill, and giving Santacon a bad rep makes it harder to put on in future years. Keep an eye on your fellow Santae and if you see a Santa being rowdy, get them to calm down.
Santa’s Dos and Don’ts
Don’t throw sprouts. Legend has it this was a Santacon tradition, but it caused injuries and left a huge mess. See the above Santa Rule about not being antisocial.
Do look out for Santa herders. The route is not published, so you’ll need to keep one eye on where Santa is going next. Herders will be holding megaphones and flags and other things to make themselves obvious. If a herder comes into a bar, buy them a drink. But if they start doing some herding, make sure you finish your own drink and move on out. Even though Santa likes to go really slowly and there are bloomin’ 1,000 of ‘em, it’s still really easy to get lost or left behind. If that happens to you, don’t panic Santa! Use someone’s smart-phone to look up the next meeting point on the Santanav Twitter feed.
Do sort out your smart-phone/tablet/mini-tablet/blackberry/kindle/Commodore64 in advance so that you can look up the Santanav Twitter feed when needed. And if you firmly believe toys should only be made out of wood, make sure you stick with a 21st Century Santa or don’t get lost in the first place. Make sure you charge your gizmo the night before, and bring a spare battery if you have one.
Do look after your feet. Slack reindeer and cuts to the National Elf Service mean that Santa has a fair amount of walking to do on the day. Wear comfortable/sensible footwear and maybe bring plasters if your Santa boots haven’t broken in.
Don’t rely on your cheap Santa suit to keep you warm. It will provide about as much insulation as a box of fuzzy felts. Santa will be outdoors quite a bit and although one might think that 1,000 jolly, fat St Nicks ought to be exothermic enough to necessitate only a pair of speedos, this sadly (or not) isn’t the case. Put on layers and dress for the cold. Air temperatures at previous Santacons have dipped below zero.
Do keep Santa fed and watered. Ensure Santa’s belly is lined with a good breakfast, and bring snacks and water for the day. There are opportunities to visit shops during the day, but don’t shop too long and get left behind! Tesco Express staff aren’t as fun as Santa.
Do print off a carol sheet from here or learn them all by heart. Singing is part of Santacon.
Do share the love. Bring badges to stick on passers by, and give gifts. NAUGHTY gifts for grown ups, like coal and brussels sprouts, and NICE gifts for children, like sweets. Big signs and banners with festive slogans will make you a hit with tourists. Hand out hug vouchers–people love to hug Santa–and of course bring mistletoe.
Don’t overcrowd the pubs. Santa tries to stop at places with enough bars for everyone. If you find a place packed, use your Santa sense and try other bars nearby.
Do be patient at the bar. Santa was there before you. Ask nicely and he might buy you a beer.
Do be sensible about alcohol. Babysitting Santa while they vomit in an alley just isn’t Christmas. Be responsible for yourself, pace your drinking, and be nice to your fellow Santa. Also be sensitive about drinking in public places. If you bring your own drink, don’t litter, and bear in mind that some establishments might not let you in, meaning you’ll have to stand outside with the 450 other Santa who did the same thing.
Maybe bring children and pets. All are invited to Santacon, including children, pets and even elves, but be aware some Santas will be drinking, and pub stops will be en route. Pets are a terrible idea unless you’re confident they can handle a crowd of Santas that all look like you. If you bring reindeer, it’s your responsibility to obtain the necessary flight permissions from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.