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Drivers and passersby heading down I Street Saturday afternoon got a quick glimpse of Christmas frivolity as about 30 adult men and women dressed in Santa Claus attire met up outside the Sacramento County Jail to kick off the city’s sixth annual SantaCon.
SantaCon, an event that originated in 1994 in San Francisco as a big holiday prank, has now become an international tradition, taking place in many of the world’s major cities, including New York, London and Tokyo. Adults come together dressed in beards, wigs, long stockings and, of course, the classic red Santa suit, and hit the streets and the bars to revel in each other’s shenanigans and company.
“In the literal sense, it’s a pub crawl,” said Terry Sellers, 34, who participated in his first SantaCon last year in San Francisco. “You get some of your friends together, you put together a crazy costume and you parade around town. It works out perfectly because we love to drink, and other people love to see a hundred Santas walking down J Street.”
Protecting themselves from the rain by huddling under awnings and umbrellas, the Santas mingled and compared costumes as they waited for other partakers to arrive. One Santa had a megaphone, while another had a radio playing loops of Christmas Carols. These were a few props that kept them busy and entertained as the rest of the Santas trickled in.
With the dark skies and rainy weather, this year’s SantaCon group started out relatively small but exuberant. As the troop made their way on foot to Old Sac to hit the first bar, they cracked jokes and told old stories. Many of them had already known each other, as a big part of the group included members of the Sacramento Cacophony Society and longtime SantaCon participants.
The itinerary of SantaCon was completely open and relaxed. With no bars or times scheduled, the Santas were free to go where they wanted and stay for as long as they pleased.
“Santas come and go throughout the day -- we’re not really expecting to stay together,” said one man who has attended every Sacramento SantaCon, who would only identify himself as “Santa Libre.” In fact, many of the Santas would only identify themselves as just that, or some slight, playful variation of the name.
“Santa does what Santa does,” he said.
The enjoyment of SantaCon didn’t end with those in costumes, either. As the celebrators continued their trek, Midtown drivers and pedestrians honked and hollered in excitement, which would often be returned with a hardy, rowdy “ho ho ho!”
Cynthia Wetzel, 33, dressed in a bright green wig and Mrs. Claus skirt, celebrated her first SantaCon in Sacramento this year, hot off the heels of New York City’s, in which she flew east to attend.
“I love seeing everyone’s reaction. I mean it’s just a blast,” she said. “It’s just about celebrating Christmas, having a good time, singing carols, drinking some beer, and enjoying making new friends.”