Santa Claus has a posse, and he’s bringing them to town this weekend for a gigantic rager. Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick will roll through the streets of downtown Phoenix in search of drinks and merriment with a ho-ho-horde of costumed characters backing him up, including countless Kris Kringle clones.
It’s all a part of Phoenix Santarchy, the annual costumed bar crawl inspired by the Santa Claus mythos where hundreds of people dressed as reindeer, elves, snowmen or anything else holiday-related.
The free event, which is organized by the urban pranksters of the Arizona Cacophony Society, involves an evening-long jaunt between a dozen different bars in downtown Phoenix. It's like a massive roaming party consisting of a throng of costumed revelers.
This year's edition is on Friday, Dec. 15, and organizers are expecting the costumes will be just as lively as ever. Outfits at past events have run the gamut from regular old Santas, elves or reindeer to anything and everything even remotely connected to the holidays, wintertime or the vast Kringle canon, ranging from Jack Skellington to Ralphie Parker in his pink bunny suit.
Chromatest J. Pantsmaker, one of the organizers of Phoenix Santarchy, says he's constantly surprised at some of the creative costumes participants wear.
"It's always amazing seeing what everyone comes up with each (year)," he says.
Events like Santarchy take place every December in cities across the U.S. like New York and San Francisco, where it's known as Santacon. Locally, Santarchy has happened almost every year since 2005 and is attended by thousands.
There are all sorts of costumed characters at Phoenix Santarchy.
Santarchy has gotten so big that it's inspired a wealth of competing Santa-themed bar crawls in other parts of the Valley, some of which charge admission or participation fees. According to Chris Lykins, a longtime Arizona Cacophony Society member, Phoenix Santarchy is meant to be a free event.
“If you’re something that’s as popular as this has been, at some point, you're going to get taken over by some commercial entity who wants to make money from it,” Lykins says. “Everyone becomes a victim of their own success sometimes.”
Phoenix Santarchy also benefits a worthy cause, as participants bring hundreds of new, unwrapped toys to donate to local charities. This year, the event is partnering with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
What else should you expect at Phoenix Santarchy on Friday night? Here's a rundown of everything you'll need to know.
When is Phoenix Santarchy this year?
Santarchy in Phoenix is scheduled to take place on Friday, Dec. 15.
Where is Phoenix Santarchy happening?
The event will take place at various bars in and around downtown Phoenix. Organizers will announce the starting location and route later this week via emails to ticketholders and on the Arizona Cacophony Society’s social media
What time does Phoenix Santarchy start?
Participants will start gathering at the first bar at 7 p.m.
How much does Santarchy cost?
It’s free to participate in the bar crawl, but organizers strongly encourage participants to reserve tickets through Eventbrite
. As we mentioned, ticketholders will be emailed the starting point and route before the event.
Is there an age limit for Phoenix Santarchy?
Yes. Since it's a bar crawl, the event is strictly for the 21-and-over crowd.
What’s the weather forecast for Phoenix Santarchy?
Temperatures will be in the 50-degree range on Friday night, so you’ll want to dress warmly or wear layers.
Santa Troopers at a previous edition of Santarchy.
How do I get to Phoenix Santarchy?
Since the bar crawl takes place downtown (and you’re likely going to be drinking), you’re better off using the light rail to get to and from the event. It’s cheap ($2 for a single ride, $4 for an all-night pass), easy to use, and operates until 2 a.m.
What about the other local Santa-themed bar crawls this weekend?
Those are competing events not officially affiliated with the Arizona Cacophony Society that charge admission or participation fees. Phoenix Santarchy, however, is completely free. As the society states on its website, “Us Cacophonists believe that Christmas and its usher, Santa Claus, should be free. Free like beer, and free like speech … Just fucking free all the way.”
Should I bring toys to Phoenix Santarchy to donate?
Yes. Organizers ask that participants bring new, unwrapped toys in their original packaging to the event, which will be collected at various stops on the bar crawl and donated to Phoenix Children's Hospital. (Note: No play guns, war toys or scary/violent action figures will be accepted.)
Are costumes required to participate in Phoenix Santarchy?
Yes. They’re mandatory.
Who you gonna call (on Christmas)?
What sort of costumes should I wear to Phoenix Santarchy?
You don’t necessarily have to dress as Santa or a member of his retinue, but some sort of holiday-inspired costume is required. It could be something inspired by Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice or even Festivus. Outfits inspired by pop culture are always fun — ranging from characters from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation” — and creativity is always encouraged. (Previous editions of Santarchy have included the Christmas Ghostbusters, Cowboy Claus and Darth Santa). Heck, one year some dressed up as a character from "Die Hard," which is a Christmas movie in our opinion.
Can I wear an ugly Christmas sweater?
No. Organizers forbid holiday sweaters as they’re considered to be “low-effort” costuming.
Can I go wild at Phoenix Santarchy?
No. Just like with other bar crawls, any drunken or disorderly behavior won’t be tolerated at Santarchy. While it’s true that the event has its roots in the countercultural scene (and has “anarchy” in its name), organizers are against destructive or disruptive activities. As the Phoenix Santarchy website
says: “We do not condone or encourage any kind of vandalism or violence at a Santarchy event. Our Santas do not destroy property, steal merchandise or do harm to others.”