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Whether you love it or hate it, SantaCon — the yearly mass bar crawl across Manhattan — is coming to town Saturday December 10. And as sloshed Santas galore (along with their inebriated elves and raucous reindeer) make their way through Midtown, we have all the details on where to rock around the Christmas tree, or like many West Siders, avoid altogether. 

SantaCon 2021: 9th Avenue Hell's Kitchen
Santas stroll Hell’s Kitchen at last year’s SantaCon. Photo: Phil O’Brien

According to this year’s SantaCon Map, St Nick’s posse will be jingle-belling through all of Midtown, with several stops at Hell’s Kitchen haunts. It kicks off at 10am in the Garment District at W39h Street and Broadway, then the bearded bunch will strut their stuff over to many Midtown West bars, including Beer Authority (at 300 W40th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue), Playwright Celtic Pub (at 732 8th Avenue between W45th and W46th Street), Blue + Blue Ribbon (at 220 W44th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue), Tito Murphy’s (at 346 W46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue), Daltons (611 9th Avenue between W43rd and W44th Street) and Walter’s Cottage (500 W43rd Street and 10th Avenue). 

Further down the way you’ll find mixing and mingling at Burgerology Midtown (320 W36th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue), Jack Doyle’s (at 240 W 35th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue),  John Sullivan’s (at 210 W 35th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue),  the destruct-it-yourself Break Bar (perhaps a perfect place for smashed Santas to slay a sleigh?) at 458 9th Avenue between W35th and W36th Street and the soon to be shuttered Twins Irish Pub (at 421 9th Avenue between W33rd and W34th Streets). 

A map of where SantaCon 2022 is being held in and around Hell's Kitchen
SantaCon’s map of the venues to either flock to or avoid. Check out the interactive version at Courtesy of SantaCon

If you’d rather go clubbing at the North Pole, there’s also the option of vibing to a remix of All I Want for Christmas is You at new Hell’s Kitchen club Musica (637 W50th Street and 12th Avenue), Harbor Rooftop (621 W46th Street between 11th and 12th Avenue), HK Hall (at 605 W 48th Street between 11th and 12th Avenue), and the famed, reinvented Copacabana (at 625 W 51st Street between 11th and 12th Avenue). 

And while many West Siders feel more than a bit Scrooge-ish about the booze-soaked affair, the boisterous holiday hustle didn’t begin as the bacchanalian bar crawl that it’s known for now. Originally formed in the 1990s by San Franciscan John Law as performance-art response to the holiday season’s commercial materialism, the event spiraled into a worldwide event, with the largest outpost remaining year after year in New York City.  

SantaCon 2014: A Times Square group shot
A mass Santa sighting at 2014’s SantaCon. Photo: Anthony Quintano/ Creative Commons

Along the way, it went from surreal to all-too-real. Drunken brawls, bar-damaging theft, and unwanted Santa harassment have left many bar owners  and Manhattan’s Community Board 4, hoping to ban the group outright.  “Over the years, Law’s tiny, spontaneous movement has evolved into something he never anticipated — and not just in terms of proliferation. Somewhere along the line, SantaCon turned into a day-long spectacle of public inebriation somewhere between a low-rent Mardi Gras and a drunken fraternity party,” said a 2014 Village Voice piece.

Knowing that they are firmly on, as a recent Gothamist piece put it, “the naughty list”, organizers told the publication that they were hoping to repair the group’s reputation with good behavior and an increased focus on the event’s charitable fundraising efforts. 

“Every year we get a lot of press that shines a negative light on SantaCon,” organizer Shiny Galeani told Gothamist. “I understand and certainly it’ll get more clicks.” But, she said, some of the coverage felt a little unfair, focused on specific incidents from a decade ago.

“People have all kinds of preconceived notions about what we are and why we do it,” Galeani said. “A lot of it stems from bad press that we got a long time ago, and that’s a bummer.”

Galeani and a man only identified as “Santa” told Gothamist that since the organization incorporated itself as a 501(c)(3) in 2012, it had given away $900,000 to local charities including City Harvest, Neighbors Together, Materials for Arts and Dance Parade. 

SantaCon 2021: Revelers hit Restaurant Row
Santas on Restaurant Row at SantaCon 2021. Photo: Phil O’Brien

And while only time will tell whether this year’s Santas will indeed be naughty or nice around Midtown, the group’s official website has added an elaborate rulebook that pleads for peaceful partying. “Santa spreads JOY: Not terror. Not vomit. Not trash. Would you want those under YOUR tree?” Santas are warned. Also in the rules: don’t block streets, climb on cars, deface property, jaywalk, drink in public or urinate.

And of course, “Santa is about PEACE. Not fighting,” the rulebook reads. “Should you find yourself in conflict with a drunken Santa, walk away. Just let it go…” 

So remember, SantaCon goers, he knows if you’ve been bad or good — so be good to Hell’s Kitchen for goodness’ sake! And for the rest of us: We have been warned.

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