This weekend, groups of twenty- and thirtysomethings decked out in cheap Santa costumes will march drunkenly through the streets of New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities.
These roving bands of merrymakers began as a novel distraction from the usual holiday shopping and family gatherings. But over two decades, SantaCon has morphed into something more exasperating, and the same people that once embraced the event have started calling for an end to the shenanigans.
The public’s annoyance with SantaCon is understandable. Started in San Francisco in 1994 as a one-off act of performance art meant to “take Christmas back from consumerists,” as co-creator John Law described it to the Village Voice last year, it has mutated into something much larger and louder.
Where Law and his friends had dropped in on a Macy’s and high-class ball at the Fairmont Hotel, the thousands of Santas joining in the fun more recently stumble only from one bar to the next. Instead of singing carols and dancing with old ladies, like the original SantaCon crew, these dollar-store Santas must be warned not to “roam the streets urinating, littering, vomiting, and vandalizing,” as New York Police Department Lt. John Cocchi wrote in a release. It’s become a sloppier and less creative Halloween parade. St. Patrick’s Day with jingle bells.
Last year, the bars of Bushwick, Brooklyn, banned the event. A group called Boycott SantaCon launched a campaign urging local business owners to “prohibit from your bar anyone dressed as Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, sexy Claus, elves, sexy elves, reindeer, sexy reindeer, snowmen, sexy snowmen, candy canes, sexy candy canes, Krampus, sexy Krampus, or any other holiday-themed costume or sexy variant of that costume.” This year, controversy has flared in San Francisco, where bar and restaurant owners have been placing signs in their windows reading “No Love for SantaCon.”
But while these Santas clearly need some boundaries, critics go too far in pushing to ban the event altogether. Two years ago, Jason O. Gilbert wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times that, “SantaCon is distinctive, and arguably impressive, in that it contributes absolutely zero value—cultural, artistic, aesthetic, diversionary, culinary or political—to its host neighborhood. Quite simply, SantaCon is a parasite.”
This is not totally fair. In fact, the debauched idiocy of SantaCon offers spectators some surprising cultural and historic value. Specifically, it serves as a peek into how Christmas began in the United States. Despite complaints that these sloppy Santas degrade the holidays, they actually embody their original spirit in many ways.
In New York, Boston, Philadelphia and a number of other cities during America’s first decades as a country, Christmas was celebrated in the streets. Something of an outgrowth of the Saturnalia celebrations of centuries earlier, which it was meant to replace, Christmas was a special time when the normal social structure became porous or inverted entirely.
Laborers, newsboys, and total strangers asked their social superiors for tips and gifts, sometimes even going right up to their homes and knocking on the door. It was a concept of “wassailing” that was a tinged with a bit more menace than the door-to-door caroling of today.
The singers in this era were of a rougher sort, as well as more numerous—and usually more drunk—than might be expected today. It was their interpretation of Europe’s “myriad customs of outlawry, role reversal, and colorful mockery of the existing order,” as historian Penne Restad describes it. And it could feel quite threatening to the era’s shop- and homeowners.
Of course, raucous partying could soon devolve into more dangerous behavior. In many cases, the celebrators ended up in fights, crashing upper-class festivities, or vandalizing property and storefronts. This, like the more vulgar behavior of the SantaCon hordes today, did not sit well with the city’s merchants, press, or elites.
One major difference between the SantaCon mobs of today and those of two centuries ago is class. The marauders of the 19th century were typically street toughs and the impoverished, the “ill-bred boys, chimney sweeps, and other illustrious and aspiring persons” as a New York newspaper described them in 1827.
These days, the typical Santa is “Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa, if the character were 24 and worked at Bain Capital,” as Gilbert wrote in his Times op-ed. But their motives are similar: creating good-natured disorder. It’s performance art, not protest or aggression.
Growth in immigration and urbanization at larger cities caused the class tension to reach a breaking point. As New York City merchant John Pintard tried to rest up for his genteel New Year’s Day calls to friends in 1820 (the respectable classes’ preferred way to honor the holidays), he was interrupted by a band of carousers playing their drums, fifes, and whistles down Wall Street. He complained in a note to his daughter that the noisy revelers “interrupted all repose till day light, when I arose.”
The patrician Pintard—co-founder of the the New-York Historical Society and Society for the Prevention of Pauperism—longed for a more civil, family-oriented celebration. It would be his friend, the wealthy professor Clement Clarke Moore, who would help make this a reality. Moore, who held similar concerns about the shifting urban landscape of New York City, in 1823 composed the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his family.
(It was published anonymously, and Moore was not credited until years later.) He dropped St. Nicholas’ ecclesiastical garb and imagined him as a “pedler” smoking the stump of a pipe. Moore effectively co-opted the rowdy wassailers, turning them from the obnoxious ruffians who demanded money to a friendly fellow who—though he startles the narrator out of sleep—is there only to offer up gifts, not demand them.
In Moore’s telling, the social inversion long associated with the holidays remained, but instead of the rich providing gifts to poor, adults now gave gifts to kids. This helped solidify a new way to celebrate Christmas: neither a noisy party on the street nor a dignified visit to friends but rather a family holiday, overseen by the good-natured spirit of Santa Claus.
The transformation did not happen overnight, but once introduced, this new version of Christmas spread fast. Merchants eagerly promoted it, seeing the obvious profit to be made in this peaceful, present-filled approach. The domestic celebration became the “real Christmas” in newspaper reports, while the drunken street carousing was soon rebranded as “crime.”
The mob craziness outside the home became faux revelry inside with the controlled parameters of household games where the kids played and adults indulgently looked on. The good-natured riotousness was pushed to the fringes (and eventually ended up on New Year’s Eve).
But the rise of SantaCon (and, in a similar way, the resurgence of St. Nick’s scary friend Krampus, long beloved in Europe and more recently embraced in the U.S., currently starring in his own holiday film) reflects the undercurrent of misrule that remains a part of Christmas’ DNA.
While we can try our best to suppress it, chances are it will pop back up in another guise—Drunk Santa or Sexy Reindeer, in this case. As disruptive and distasteful as it may be, drunken, costumed debauchery may be a truer celebration of Christmas than peaceful family gatherings around the yule log.
Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space
Would you pay $1200 a month for a bunk bed in a shared space? Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are opting for pods in communal home with a desk, locker and personal TV
With the cost of rent continuing to rise, some Americans are taking unusual measures to find a place to sleep.
PodShare, which provides 10 to 15 co-ed bunkbeds in six locations across California, is hoping to help solve the affordable housing crisis.
The beds can be rented from $35 to $50 a night, which amounts to between $1,050 and $1500 for one month.
It’s no secret that housing prices have rapidly spiked over the last decade and incomes have not kept up
One 2018 study published found that only about one-third of millennials currently own homes.
This is fewer than the number of Generation Xers and baby boomers who owned homes when they were the same age.
And a study conducted by Harvard University this year found that one-in-three Americans can’t afford to pay rent.
It’s unsurprising considering that, in cities such as San Francisco, the average rent for an apartment is about $3,900.
But for $1,200, if you rent with PodShare everyone gets a bed that turns into a desk, individual power outlets, a locker, a shelf and a personal TV.
Each location also provides a communal living room, food such as cereal, toiletries such as toilet paper, laundry machines and WiFi access, reported CNN.
Tenants are known as ‘pod-estrians’.
Although the set-up may seem like an adult dormitory or a hostel, the company uses the term ‘co-living’.
‘PodShare makes life more affordable because there is no security deposit or cost of furnishings and we provide flexible living,’ co-founder Elvina Beck told Vice in 2016.
‘Pod life is the future for singles which are not looking to settle down, but focus on their startups and experience something new.’
There are no curtains to close off the beds, and the only doors are to the bathroom, reported Time Out Los Angeles.
Although there’s no privacy, pod-residents are willing to exchange that for affordability or a reduced travel time to work.
Beck, 34, told CNN that she founded the company in 2012 because she wanted to meet new people and provide housing security to others.
‘Maybe they don’t have two months’ rent to put down or they don’t have proof of income,’ she said.
‘Whether it’s from a divorce or their family kicked them out for being gay or because they’re in a different country or a different city.’
She told CNN that, when she began PodShare, most residents were between ages 24 and 30. Today, however, most ‘tenants’ are in their late 20s or early 30s.
Additionally, many of the early residents were young adults who had just moved to a new city. But many new residents are older adults and even those traveling on business.
However, there some rules that people are required to follow. Lights have to be off by 10pm, no guests are allowed and tenants can’t have sex.
‘You can’t invite any friends over,’ Beck told CNN. ‘Sorry. Just make new ones here.’
Caretaker Ties a Wheelchair-Bound Pensioner to a Tree by The Neck
Shocking footage of a wheelchair-bound pensioner being tied to a tree by the neck by a caretaker has sparked controversy in China.
The caretaker claimed to have no other way but to bind her frail client with a rope because she had to rush back home to deal with family emergency.
Furious onlookers demanded the caretaker free the pensioner immediately. The domestic worker defended her act by calling the incident ‘no big deal’.
The pensioner appeared extremely distressed throughout the video and could not speak clearly.
One angry male passer-by accused the caretaker: ‘How would you feel if your daughter treated you like this?’
He criticised the caretaker and said she should bring the pensioner with her.
The caretaker replied: ‘[If I had] pushed her back, she would tell [on me].’
Another female bystander pointed out that the pensioner neck had turned red because of the rough treatment.
After being lambasted by eyewitnesses, the caretaker untied the pensioner and pushed her away.
Authority said the clip had been uploaded onto the social media by residents in a neighbourhood called Nanyuan on the outskirts of southern Beijing.
But they had not been able to identify the exact location of the incident or track down the individuals involved.
Police have been alerted of the video and launched an investigation, according to Beijing Evening News.
Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition
“Calming the Canines,” at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC), is a new Independence Day tradition.
Last year, over 300 people from the community showed up at the shelter’s two locations around Phoenix, Arizona.
It was overwhelming to see how the community responded. It really helped spread our message that MCACC is here to help.
Amy Engel, who attended Calming the Canines last year said that she definitely plans on attending this year, too.
Engel wrote about her experience last year
Some people sang to them, some people read to them, some people just sat there and gave treats! It was so, so awesome because the dogs absolutely love the attention and were focused on the people and not the fireworks going on outside.
Many participants developed lasting relationships with the shelter, returning to provide foster care, adopt a pet or volunteer.
The shelter suggests people to bring blankets to sit on, or folding chairs, and to let the dog or cat approach them to sit calmly and quietly.
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