In the Tavern Tap in the Congress Hotel, Santa sits at the bar drinking scotch on the rocks. He swirls the ice cubes around in his glass, sighs and looks behind him out the window, where Santa is also standing drinking a Heineken, with two other Santas. Even more Santas file in until 3pm when they all head out together. Welcome to “SantaCon Chicago,” a free, open invitation to dress up like Santa and stumble from bar to bar.
Though most of the plump and jolly bar hoppers chugging pints don the traditional red and white Santa suit, others choose to interpret “Santa” more loosely. There are female Santas in skirts, a red sweat suit “Ghetto Santa” as indicated by a name tag, Santa wearing a fedora and more. Eon Mcleary sports a slightly bizarre version of the man of the evening, but he has all the elements: he’s wearing red, he has a fake beard, gold chains, black Mohawk. “I have this bad problem of dressing up like Mr. T three to four times a year,” he says. But “It’s not a fetish. My ‘T’ interest doesn’t go any further than dressing up as Mr. T.”
The organizer of the event, Santa Tom, decided to start the SantaCon event in Chicago last year, after seeing it done in other cities like New York, where thousands of Santas roamed the streets from bar to bar. “The biggest thing I noticed is that there are other Santa bar crawls, but you gotta pay forty bucks or whatever and sign up ahead of time…This is free, open to the public and everyone’s invited,” he says. “I wanted to break down barriers and say ‘Who gives a fuck.’” <I>(Stephanie Ratanas)