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Santas gather by the thousands to drink and be merry at SantaCon NYC

Revellers gather in Times Square for the start SantaCon in New York City on Saturday.
Timothy A. Clary
/
AFP via Getty Images
Revellers gather in Times Square for the start SantaCon in New York City on Saturday.

People are bringing red hats, coats and room for plenty of beer on Saturday as the annual SantaCon celebration returns in New York City.

The holiday-themed pub crawl emerged after Santa Claus-dressed attendees first gathered in a kind of performance art in the 1990s and began frequenting bars in the early 2000s. It's now a full-scale operation with organizers, drink specials and a charity drive.

SantaCon participants celebrate the beginning of the pub crawl in Times Square.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
SantaCon participants celebrate the beginning of the pub crawl in Times Square.

The festivities began at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Broadway Ave. and West 39th St. and continued at bars across midtown Manhattan.

As pubcrawlers navigate the city, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is enforcing an alcohol ban from 4 a.m. Saturday until noon on Sunday.

SantaCon participants gather in Times Square for the start of the 2022 SantaCon NYC on Saturday.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
SantaCon participants gather in Times Square for the start of the 2022 SantaCon NYC on Saturday.

SantaCon was suspended in 2020 due to COVID but revived a year ago. This year, city health authorities are warning of a resurgence of COVID cases, as well as flu and RSV, and advised mask-wearing in crowded outdoor settings and public indoor settings.

SantaCon pub crawls are also taking place outside of New York City. There are dozens of SantaCons taking place on Saturday and throughout the week, from Los Angeles to Louisville, Ky., according to SantaCon.info, a site tracking all the events.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.