Santacon is known today as a day of drunken revelry. It is, essentially, a massive pub crawl. But when it began, back in 1994, it was Santarchy: "The Founder and Avatar of The Suicide Club, Gary Warne decided to organize a non-political, purely surreal Santa prank event after reading a Mother Jones article about a Danish political group dressing as Santas and mobbing a Copenhagen Dept. store just before Christmas."
The Danish group was known as Solvognen and they mobbed Copenhagen in 1974--Mother Jones wrote about them in 1977 (click for article). Their actions were a response to "greed and capitalism."
The U.S. event was originally, says Wikipedia, "Influenced by the surrealist movement, Discordianism, and other subversive art currents, the Cacophonists celebrated the Yule season in a distinctly anti-commercial manner, by mixing guerrilla street theatre and pranksterism."
So, basically, Santacon used to be kind of punk. It sounds a lot like Reverend Billy's actions in the city's Starbucks. How then did it become the pub crawl it is today?
Santacon NYC Logo
While the Santacon NYC site says "It's not a bar crawl," they nevertheless give tips on how to survive the day that are almost all alcohol-related: "Pace yourself. Your friends don’t want to spend their Santacon cleaning the puke outta your beard." "Tip your bartenders well." "Don’t get arrested. Dressing like Santa does not exempt you from city, state and federal laws. This includes open container violations!" "Check in on your friends... Don’t send your wasted 22-year-old cousin on the train back to Ronkonkoma by herself!"
Maybe that's just the difference between 1974, 1994, and today, when "hordes of drunk Santas take over New York." Just as Christmas has been removed from its original meaning, so has Santacon. Of course, it took a couple thousand years for Christmas to lose its significance--and only a decade or so for Santacon. But things move so quickly nowadays from meaningful to meaningless, it's hard to keep up.