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When is the SantaCon coming to Pennsylvania?

(NEXSTAR) – Depending on your tolerance for alcohol and costumed buffoons, SantaCon is either a beloved holiday tradition or the most loathed event of the year.

In any case, it’s probably a good idea to know when these fun-loving Santas are coming to your town.

SantaCon isn’t so much a ‘convention’ as the name suggests, but more of a huge gathering of people dressed up as Santa, often to go on a festive pub crawl. The idea has grown in popularity for decades, with hundreds of cities across the US (and many abroad) hosting their own SantaCons in recent years.

This year, around 90 SantaCon events are planned across the country in the coming weeks – and these are just the ones listed in the SantaCon.info database. More Christmas-themed pub crawls are planned for other cities, although they may not operate under the SantaCon name.

According to SantaCon.info, the SantaCon will be coming to Pennsylvania on the following dates:

  • Bethlehem, December 10th
  • Harrisburg, December 10th
  • Pittsburgh, December 10th
  • State College, December 10
  • Philadelphia, December 17

The origins of these events can be traced back to 1974, when a theater group in Copenhagen decided to stage an anti-consumption demonstration by donning Santa Claus outfits and distributing items they had stolen from the shelves of a department store, the reported New York Times. A few years later, the founder of an underground club in San Francisco proposed a similar event, but the group didn’t act until 1994, when one of the members was inspired to organize a silly Santa-themed celebration after seeing a postcard with several Santas playing pool at a gay bar, according to KQED, a San Francisco PBS affiliate station.

The first SantaCon — then known as “Santarchy” or “Cheap Suit Santas” — was more law-abiding than the Copenhagen event, where a few dozen attendees stormed Christmas parties, engaged in snowball fights, and even visited a strip club dressed in full Santa Claus garb.

The group held another Santarchy in 1995, although the celebration took on a raucer atmosphere thanks to increased attendance and the proliferation of alcohol, KQED reported.

“It was never intended to be a bar crawl,” observed Rob Schmitt, one of the masterminds behind San Francisco’s 1994 Santarchy event, in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.

In the years that followed, organizers in nearby regions began hosting their own gatherings. The then burgeoning Internet soon helped SantaCon become a nationwide phenomenon.

Of course, not everyone is enthusiastic about the SantaCon. Schmitt himself said in 2017 that he was not a fan of “the way it is now”. Santarchy co-founder John Law told The Village Voice a few years earlier that he “didn’t want to be blamed” for the idea, especially since SantaCon was now associated with drunken parties. Many bars and restaurants have also refused to attend during SantaCon, instead directing attendees to other locations.

A sign at a bagel shop in NYC informs SantaCon attendees on December 9, 2015 that they are “not welcome” at the facility. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

However, fans claim that SantaCon brings a lot of good. Organizers across the country have used their events to publicize local toy drives or raise money for charities. And many bar owners willingly offer their venues as Christmas-friendly stops along the pub crawl, including the hundreds of San Francisco bars that view SantaCon as a sort of revenue-generating “Black Friday” for the service industry, Nexstar’s KRON reported last year.

Are you thinking of dressing up this year? Visit SantaCon.info for SantaCon dates and locations near you.

Avoid SantaCon like the plague? Go ahead and also visit SantaCon.info for dates and locations of SantaCons near you.

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