Santa Con is a gathering of people dressed as Santa Claus, which apparently began in Copenhagen in 1974 and has spread throughout the world. It is essentially a "Santa convention" that moves throughout the city, having a good time and spreading goodwill. It is kind of a mix between a pub crawl, a parade and a city tour. SantaCon now takes place in 275 locations in 37 countries. We were surprised to learn this was Shanghai's first SantaCon. SantaCon Shanghai was put together with help from Shanghai Pub Crawl, BEAN (a volunteer organization) and sponsors like Daily Secret Shanghai. BEAN, which does great volunteer and charity works in Shanghai and brings together young professionals for events and networking as well, benefited from donations collected along the route. Donations went to pay for diapers and supplies for orphans, and they also sold flasks to help fund operating costs. Check out BEAN online for ways to contribute (there are BEAN organizations in many cities throughout the world too).
After receiving the loose schedule online (the location and route is kept somewhat secret up until the day or so before the event), we arrived in the Former French Concession to find a group of Santas loitering on the corner near a Lawson's, fueling up on Santa Con juice (beer and wine coolers for some, water for others).
|Commemorative spandex Santa suits were for sale, complete with full face cover. Not so great for drinking beer, but no one let that stop them!|
Our group made its way over to Yongkang Lu, a great little street of cafes and bars. It was a drizzly, cold day but overall not a bad one for a SantaCon--no downpours or extreme cold, and we had Santa hats and beards (and spandex suits or hot pink tuxes, depending on your interpretation of Santa style) to keep us warm.
|The Santa march begins|
|Gathering on the street and bars at Yongkang Lu|
A little boy, who I nicknamed Waldo, became the local star as he came along in his Santa hat, Christmas sweater and eyeball glasses and joined in the crowd. His family enjoyed watching him have fun and take part in many photo opps.
We had mostly traditional renditions of Santa, along with a few "girl" Santas in dresses, an elf, and one guy in a skimpy cheerleader-like belly baring outfit (brr!). While hanging out on Yongkang Lu, a biker covered in stickers joined us. I don't really know what it was all about, but he was big on giving hugs (maybe to keep warm) and seemed to be in the spirit, if not in the proper costume.
We enjoyed a spot at the Handle Bar watching the action in the streets, and then grabbed a couple of slider sandwiches at Sliders to fuel up for the rest of the journey. Of course we had to snap the obligatory "wherever you go" shot of the ubiquitous Yankees hat (may be a little hard to see in this photo)...
|Santas on the train|
|Our adoring fans (and a few of the Santas--and cows, from the group, documenting the moment)|
We made our way up to The Bund. Normally, this would have been the best photo opp, but the Shanghai smog was at its finest. However, we took some group photos and then spent a lot of time giving out joy by posing with many Chinese people for them to snap pictures with us. I wonder how many of these photos are traveling around the internet on Weibo or being messaged to friends ("Look at me with these goofy Laowais who were parading around as Santas. I don't know if this is some kind of Laowai traditon?"). Bryan was asked by one group who spoke a bit of English if we were all friends. "No, just strangers who got together and dressed as Santa for the night." and in reply, "Oh, so this was on the internet?" They got it!
Happy Holidays to everyone and let's all wish (and work towards) for peace and kindness in 2013!