One of the world’s newest holiday traditions, and one of the fastest growing in popularity around the world, is the Santa Claus Pub Crawl. Based on the traditional pub crawls that have evolved in former Commonwealth countries over the last few decades, Santa Claus Pub Crawls usually combine a charitable event of some sort with a generous indulgence of Christmas cheer. Although such holiday pub crawls have been met with both skepticism by religious authorities and concern by local law officials, these makeshift Santa celebrations are becoming a regular Christmas tradition in many places around the world.
Despite its relatively recent emergence, the exact origin of the Santa Claus Pub Crawl is uncertain. The tradition is believed to have begun in Wollongong in Australia, with the first known crawl there having taken place in 1994. It was originally intended to be nothing more than a group of friends getting together, dressing up as Santa Claus and going for drinks. In little more than a decade it has ballooned into a massive event, with nearly a thousand attendees in 2008. It has also taken on the veneer of a benevolence event, wherein toys and money are collected for local charities.
From Wollongong, the tradition of the crawl has spread to other places in Australia as well as to the United Kingdom and the United States. For the most part these Santa celebrations are festive and, in general, successful as charitable events. However, there have been incidents involving cities where the pub crawls are more of an excuse for drunkenness and occasional light rioting. These crawls are condemned by attendees at other such festivals who are making every effort to put a friendly and purposeful face on the new tradition.
The Santa Claus Pub Crawl in Wollongong, a university town located approximately forty miles south of Sydney, is believed to be the oldest, relatively speaking, of the world’s major pub crawls, and will probably see regular attendance of over a thousand Santas annually in the next few years. It usually takes place a week or two before Christmas, and kicks off at the North Wollongong Hotel, where toys and charitable donations are collected. The time and date varies annually. There is no charge for admission. Web: www.thesantaclauspubcrawl.com (official website)