Sandra was at the very first Santa "Con".
"There were about 80 of us, we met at Katz's Deli. It was 1999 I think. We all dressed up in Santa suits, it was originally an alternative, a "con" or parody on Christmas."
It was a secret, clandestine, affair with only one goal... to have fun. An irreverent group of costumers and downtown artists channeling a creative camaraderie, roamed the lower east side of New York City in the days before cell phones and Twitter.
"There was a girl named Ducky, she had a clipboard, she would shout, "Santa's on the move" and the next destination was announced. "We were welcomed everywhere. We had a song book with naughty lyrics to Christmas songs. We would go to every bar on St Mark's, they would all come out on the street and invite us in. The owners couldn't wait to have us back, it was their best take of the year."
"The first year, we went to Billy's Strip club and all the Santa's stripped for money and we gave all of it to the girls who worked there."
With the gentrification and advent of cell phones, things began to change, but when Time Out discovered us... next thing you know there were 10,000 Santa's. The name and the meaning changed. When I told Sandra, Santacon is now known as a Santa Convention, she was mortified.
This year there is a flurry of Santa Haters, trying to shut the whole thing down. Good luck. Banning liquor or asking bartenders not to serve bad Santa's is like trying to empty the ocean, one bucket at a time. Even Police Commissioner Ray Kelley says, "It's what makes New York, New York". I was interviewed on ABC News, defending my experience of Santacon, which is, hands down, my favorite day of the year.
Saturday will be my fifth year... but you never forget your first Santacon! Although I'm a sober Santa, I fear the prohibitionists are protesting in vain. It's like trying to ban booze at St Patrick's Day.
Once you get past the initial embarrassment of walking out of your apartment in a Santa Claus suit for the first time, and you get a "Hi Santa!" from a similarly clad New Yorker, the day gets progressively more magical.
There are only four things needed to participate in the annual, global, spontaneous Santarchy!
1. A Santa Claus suit (elves, rain deer, Chanukah bushes, Christmas trees. Sketchy Santas and gingerbread cookies welcome).
2. Download the Santa Carols Songbook with randy lyrics from the website.
3. Program the Hashtags #Santacon #NYCSantacon on your phone.
4. Leave all embarrassment and self respect at home.
You've probably seen hoards of us on subway platforms, a thousand singing "We Are The Champions" in Grand Central Station, Washington Square and 10,000 in Central Park and Times Square. If you can suspend your judgements, it's a pretty thrilling experience.
It's all very hush, hush and secret meeting locations. Renegade off shoots making up their own routes or... just go out into the city and join anyone else in a Santa suit and see where it takes you! This is not a day for those of us with OCD.
Of the many benefits of donning the red suit, you'll laugh for eight hours straight, it's a great calorie burner, giggling and schlepping all over town and... with the release of all those endorphins, it's impossible to be depressed while wearing a red suit.
I will be there with my SantaCam if you can't make it, but you might want to consider it for your bucket list.