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all photos: Ben Droz
all words: Tom Risen

Santarchy DC 2009: Saturday (For Friday Naughty Santa Ball Photos, go here)

Starting at the Natural History Museum the Santarchy band of Christmas costumed characters turned the National Mall into the North Pole for an afternoon.

Handing out toys and candy canes to children and tourists, families with kids and college buddies alike dressed up and walked the town together united by their love for Santa.

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Some Santas carried bottles of Polar courage and flasks of what might have been hot chocolate, but was probably scotch. Like D.C.’s own daylong Easter Egg Hunt bus tour that also starts around Capitol Hill each year, this costume carousal gears up to a bar crawl.

While Santarchy has no national coordination it has caught on and a costumed bar crawl went on in New York the same day, and has been happening annually in some cities for years, known as Naughty Santas, Cheapsuit Santas or Santa Rampage. The San Francisco version claims they invented it in 1994. As for D.C.’s Santarchy, organizer and D.C. Burner Dustin said he has been doing it here since 1999.

“I like the chaos about not having a set plan, about people not knowing where they’re going,” said Dustin. “When they do it in San Francisco and New York they have so many people it’s almost unmanageable, it’s bar crawl chaos and they have like four or five different routes. Here it’s still manageable. Although we called the Big Hunt and Lucky Bar ahead of time this year to let them know we’d be packing their places with 300 to 400 Santas, though I didn’t want to have to plan a route.”

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Trying to steal the spotlight on the National Mall was bunch of banana-costumed people running alongside the Santas in a march they called Bananarchy. This fruit-costumed group is actually another regional Burning Man-inspired group calling themselves Camp Monkey Business, and has bonfire parties in Southern Maryland, according to www.campmonkeybusiness.com.

While the mood was merry there was a war protest against the escalation of Afghanistan going on in Lafayette Square outside the White House. Alpha Santa Dustin wanted to keep well clear of getting Santa and his reindeer entangled in that and started the bar crawl early, going to the nearby Black Finn pub after making a stop at the Lincoln Memorial.

“We steal each other’s photographs and we contact each other sometimes, like Santarchy Calgary asked to take some of our ideas,” said Dustin. “We have to deal with some weird things like Capitol police trying to make sure we’re not protesting. Other cities haven’t been so lucky so we’ve developed some verbal judo to keep the parade going smoothly and they learn from that to keep it a great Xmas spirit.”

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