Santas in the city (all pics: jonahkessel.com)
The 2010 Beijing SantaCon Diary
Over one hundred Santas
Half-remembered Christmas carols
A scuffle in Tiananmen Square
More mulled wine than you can shake a blitzened reindeer at
A week of insomnia (not even two all-nighters could cure it), some last-minute work duties, a lack of a red suit… it seemed I would be a Beijing SantaCon wannabe this year. But I ended up tagging along for most of the tour. Some diary highlights…
This pizza joint in the Hopson Center (known to the cool kids as the Hip Hopson) is one of two SantaCon starting points, the other being Pyro Pizza in Wudaokou. I arrive at 12:20 and see ten Santas. This number soon doubles. Then it triples. And then…
Naughty: The material in the twenty five-kuai Santa suits is not durable. The first of many crotch tears ensues.
Nice: Along with the Santas, two people dress as Christmas presents and one as an elf.
Milk and cookies: Free mulled wine from Bang! Bang! The fries (RMB25) at this place are tasty and one Santa is pretty happy with his chicken panini (RMB35).
Sleds in the age of the global economic crisis.
Subway Line 1
Santas make the long march from Bang! Bang! to Guomao subway station so they can zip directly to Tiananmen Square. Strollers stare at the group: What? Haven’t you people seen 40 Santas walk around Beijing before?
Naughty Nutty: Three Santas cram into the back of a pedicab and drink beer.
Nice: The “blue sky” day.
Fact: As demonstrated on the subway several times, the average Santa only knows the 12 Days of Christmas up to “five golden rings” at best. The next day always becomes, “Six mmm mmm mmm-ing.”
Anyone see a reindeer in this car?
Naughty: A Santa outside the square plays carols on a guitar and gets a scolding for performing without a license.
(Almost naughty: People quell the desire to sing “Noel” as “Nobel”.)
Nice: The groups from Bang! Bang! and Pyro meet in the square and they now total more than one hundred Santas.
Nutty: A guard at Tiananmen tells a photojournalist to stop taking pictures of the Santas. He refuses, ends up pushing the guard, and is taken away to be put on the naughty list. (He is released a few hours later.)
Drum & Bell
The Santas take buses to the Gulou area and walk to the drum and bell towers.
Nasty: One Santa worries that the “beard” fibers he accidentally swallowed might be “toxic”. At the least, he is getting a rosy glow from the itching.
Nice: Santas race rickshaws, play hacky sack with the drivers, and take photos with people at the bases of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.
Milk and cookies: I slip into the nearby Sculpting in Time to have a coffee (RMB18) and send some emails.
There's only so much mulled wine a Santa can take...
The Santas make another long march, this time to Houhai and the two-floor Tao Yao. The bar is soon packed with Santas and the staff scrambles to keep them hydrated.
Naughty: Several Santas climb trees, put beer bottles in the branches, and get “bark burns” as they slide down.
Nice: I nominate the eleven-month-old Santa baby in the group as the best-behaved participant of the day.
Milk and cookies: Mulled wine and Harbin beer seem to be the Santa favorites.
I skip Salud and its half-price drinks (that includes the potent infused rum shots) to grab groceries, go home, and drop off my computer. That turned into some weirdness…
Nutty: I leave my apartment complex to find fire trucks and police cars parked outside with lights flashing. The police go into my building, to an apartment two floors below mine, but I don’t have time to find out what is going on because …
Not nice: A friend calls and needs money to go to the hospital. I head off to meet him and make “the drop”. It sucks to be sick, especially when you are far from home. A sobering thought as I go to meet the Santas at…
Milk and cookies: This place has the usual beverage options plus two-for-one pizzas from Gung Ho!
Naughty: A few of us heed the call to go Migas but it turns out we were sent too early as the place is still full of dinner guests. “You guys aren’t supposed to be here until after 11 PM”, we are told. Santas wait for no one, so we go to…
This place is holding its reopening party and more than 30 Santas end up here.
Naughty: Santas dancing provocatively around the stripper’s pole to Lady Gaga, Shakira, et al. Stay classy, North Pole!
Nice: Santas dancing around a pole?
Milk and cookies: Bar Blu has a RMB20 drink special for its opening party. Two Santas get the honor of being among the first customers to be short-changed.
That pretty much ended the night for me. I popped into Migas once more (still no Santas) and the new Mo Lounge in Tongli Studio (three Santas on the stairs), and did a quick walk around (I spotted one Santa in 9.9: that is probably the last we’ll ever see of him), and then headed home for some real milk and cookies.