They do give the pubs a heads up first. After all, it can be unsettling to be tending bar and look up to find hot Santas, naughty elves and sexy Peppermint Patties queuing up for shots. Red is the new black, fur is de rigueur, and "ho, ho, ho" takes on a whole new meaning with the internationally-recognized SantaCon.
But when it comes to SantaCon Houston, we put our own unique spin on this popular event. "Every year somebody goes in something crazy. Last year there was flasher Santas," says one of Santa's helpers, who gave us her name but asked to be credited as Santa Houston. In this #MeToo climate, she's quick to note that these Santas weren't really flashing their privates.
"Every year we have a group that comes as Slash from the rock band," says Santa Houston. "They all dress in black T-shirts and big crazy Slash wigs. They’re always a fun group."
The premise is simple: Line up a hotel room, arrange to get on the couch circuit, or make sure the Uber app is installed on your phone. Then don your Santa suit, Grinch mask or sexy elf costume and head downtown for a walking party on wheels with this annual pub crawl. Bring a toy (because that's what Santa Claus is all about) and place it in one of the donation boxes for Toys for Tots.
Santa Houston says they'll hit six or seven bars before the evening comes to a close. "We try to do one an hour. Sometimes we go to multiple bars since we have so many people. This year we’re doing it downtown and some of [the bars] are kind of small."
The flash mob of Santas is met with smiles wherever they go, and the group has even hopped on the train to hand out candy. (Just in case you find yourself on the Red Line and think you're hallucinating.)
Santa Houston says the theme is always Santa. "I’ve been doing this 12 to 15 years. This is a worldwide event; there are many cities around the globe that do it. The website is SantaCon.info. Every city around the globe, big and small, they participate."
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They're still warning a few pubs about this year's SantaCon Houston, but the route map will be posted a week before the event.
"Everybody has a great time. It can get to be 150 to 200 people by the end of the night," says Santa Houston.
And just like Santa's belly, the event has grown over the years. "It’s pretty big. It’s on Facebook, we get friends of friends of friends," says Santa Houston. "It’s always a good time and it’s good for the economy.
SantaCon Houston runs from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. December 16 in downtown Houston. For information, visit the local group's Facebook page at facebook.com/Santacon-Houston-205469383251. Free.