Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Santa Claus Army

I've been a in a few places where crowds of people have drunkenly started to sing their national anthem for no apparent reason. This weekend was the first time I'd seen it happen in my own country.

There was something strangely appropriate about it. It was inside of a packed bar in Greenwich Village, New York City. About 90% of the people inside were dressed as Santa Claus. Most of them were highly inebriated. The bar was about as big as the pizza shop pictured to the left, only with about 90+ more people inside. A random dozen decided this was the perfect moment to start singing The Star Spangled Banner. Most of the rest joined in.

It was a bunch of young Americans getting terrifically drunk off of cheap light beer in America's most trendy neighborhoods in its biggest city dressed as the non-religious image of the biggest holiday in American culture, and coincidentally the biggest corporate spending and consuming season. All in the spirit of goodwill towards all. With a slight hint of irony, because, after all, this is New York, and Williamsburg (aka Hipstertown, USA) is only four stops away on the L train. Does it get more American than that?

Well, yes, probably, but only because "American" is such a fluid term these days.

The cause of all this? Santacon 2010. As organizers describe it, "non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason."

If you were anywhere in the West Village after about 2:30pm yesterday, you could not have tossed a candy cane without hitting someone in a Santa outfit. Sometimes they had beards. Sometimes they had dresses. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one with both. I even saw two Jewish Santas, one in a blue Santa outfit with a star of David pendant at least two feet across, the other in a completely normal Santa costume, except for instead of the normal hat, he was wearing a huge, red, hasidic-style shtreimel. Most Santas around town were drinking, and occasionally making out with Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer, and other Santas. Also smoking. There's something really funny about watching a dude in a Santa outfit light up a cigarette.

While I accept that this sort of event happens in many other places aside from New York City, I don't know of any place else where, the very next day, on my way to work I would end up running into two city blocks shut down for a Shiite celebration of Ashura. The Santas were hilarious, but the Shiia gave me free pizza. Shoukran and Salaam Alekum, folks.

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