September 22, 2023

Siege, Subterfuge, and Santas

It is a cozy evening in the pub, a few regulars sitting at the bar sipping in contented silence, a group of travelers huddled around the fireplace, fighting back the chill of the road. The barkeep looks up from washing tankards, like she’s listening to something you cannot quite hear. She drops the mug into the washtub, eyes narrow, and reaches for something under the counter. Now you do hear something, shouting and the beat of boots on the ground, growing steadily louder. The others notice too, looking up from their drinks. 

“Oh no, is that today…” one of them says, unmistakable dread in his voice. 

The barkeep steps out from her station holding a club, heads toward the door. Through the window you see a blur of red and white, a writhing mass washing through the streets. 

Here come the Santas. 

If you’ve worked in a bar around Christmas in recent years, chances are that you’ve had an encounter with the phenomenon known as SantaCon. The mere mention sparks bad memories for hospitality veterans, a recurring nightmare in what is usually already a busy and stressful time. 

For the uninitiated, SantaCon is a pub crawl that began in San Francisco in the 90s and has since spread around the world, with festivities held on every continent. And yes, that does include Antarctica. One Saturday every December, hundreds–in San Francisco, it is thousands–of revelers don Santa suits with the goal of drinking their way through the city. The descend on the streets and move en masse from bar to bar, leaving a trail of vomit and violence in their wake. 

So, how do you defeat the ho-ho-hoard? 

SantaCon’s strength is derived from its numbers coupled with wildly eroded inhibitions. You cannot appease this unruly beast. Its thirst for alcohol is bottomless, potential for chaos boundless. SantaCon has become a widely abhorred tradition by the businesses and residents that fall in its path, so it’s not uncommon to see bars and restaurants post signs telling the Santas they are not welcome or hiring extra security to keep them at bay. But this doesn’t offer much protection against the wrath of the intoxicated Santas—they do not respect boundaries, so someone must hold the line. SantaCon is more like a Santa Siege, so your party should band together and put your tankiest members front and center to absorb the brunt of the damage. 

Since you are dealing with an inebriated mass, you may also be able to fool them. Keep it simple, find ways to avoid the swarm’s attention and you may be able to slip through unbothered. Beware, though, because its behavior is unpredictable. There is no designated route to avoid, so you could cross paths at any time and stumble across anything from fistfights to wild amounts of urine to good ‘ole fashioned vandalism. Exercise extreme caution lest you be caught up in the whims of the crowd.