SantaCon participants at Charlies Bar & Kitchen. Photo by Liya Cui.

Bronx residents no longer have to make the trek to Manhattan to enjoy SantaCon. 

Dozens of people dressed as Santas, reindeer, and even lit-up Christmas trees bar-hopped all over Mott Haven Friday afternoon, spreading holiday cheer and donating toys in exchange for free drink tickets during the first-ever South Bronx SantaCon.

The event kicked off at 4 pm outside Bronx Native, a clothing store on Lincoln Street owned by Amaurys Grullon. Jonas Silva, creative director of JSilva Events, partnered with Grullon to realize his vision for the borough’s first SantaCon.

“After Covid and everything that has happened, Christmas spirit has been missing, and I wanted to do something that everyone knows, which is SantaCon,” said Silva. “But I wanted to do it on a more positive note. You know, a kind of happy hour, like, start small.”

Some New Yorkers may not have positive associations with the original SantaCon NYC, which has a reputation for unleashing hundreds of unruly Santas onto Manhattan streets each year. 

But the South Bronx SantaCon’s charitable premise is front and center: For every new unwrapped toy donated at a participating bar, residents got a free happy hour drink ticket. 

Silva and Grullon are working with Canon Strategy Group, Hoodspitality Group, and Rethink Food to organize the gift-wrapping and distribution of the toys to children at shelters for those seeking asylum across the city’s boroughs. 

“Our priority is the community. We are not only collecting toys for the youth, but we are also supporting our small businesses and all of our restaurants and bars here,” said Grullon. “We need things like this to engage the community, right? Things like this to keep continuing to create community.”

Participants hit up nine venues in Mott Haven and Port Morris during the four-hour bar crawl: Maisonetta, Rosa’s at Park, Bottle Bronx, Charlies Bar & Kitchen, Beatstro, Chocobar Cortés, Bricks & Hops, Innie Bistro, and Bar 47.

The SantaCon bar crawl on their way to the next venue. Photo by Liya Cui.

The event’s finale was a party and fundraiser at Sankofa Haus, where participating bars and restaurants raffled off prizes. The biggest prize of all was two free tickets to a Maria Carey Christmas concert at Madison Square Garden the next night, which went to the winner of a game of “Santa musical chairs.”

With a festive crowd of people singing Christmas carols up and down the streets and cheering at honking cars, it seems the South Bronx SantaCon has made its mark in Mott Haven. Silva said he is already looking forward to keeping the holiday fun going next year.

“This is definitely starting in the South Bronx,” he said. “If this grows, we would love to collaborate with the entire Bronx and maybe, you know, even other boroughs.” 

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