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Booze-soaked Santas have some New Yorkers seeing red

By Sho Wills, CNN
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0454 GMT (1254 HKT)
Revelers dressed as Santa Claus pose for a picture at Tompkins Square Park during the annual NYC SantaCon on Saturday, December 14, 2013. Revelers dressed as Santa Claus pose for a picture at Tompkins Square Park during the annual NYC SantaCon on Saturday, December 14, 2013.
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SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
SantaCon 2013 hits New York
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NYC Santacon hits the streets of the Big Apple on Saturday
  • The debauchery of the event in recent years has soured some
  • Police commissioner downplays the complaints, blaming only a "handful" of revelers
  • The annual event is one of hundreds that take place in cities all over the world

New York (CNN) -- Keep your kids away from these Santas!

Bar-goers dressed in Christmas-themed costumes descended upon hundreds of cities worldwide Saturday for the annual bar crawl known as Santacon.

In New York, thousands took to the streets dressed as elves, Santas and holiday-themed characters, as they have since 1997. In recent years, the debauchery of some of its participants has become too much -- even for some who take part in it.

"It was just terrible, they were throwing up in the streets. It was really just disgusting. I just put a red suit on and have a good time," Sandy Bachom, who participated in the event last year, told CNN afilliate WABC.

"I think New Yorkers generally are extremely tolerant of visitors, but when they come in such droves, and then combine that with public intoxication, it has a negative impact in our neighborhoods," state Sen. Brad Hoylman said to WABC.

Despite the controversy, city officials are supporting the event.

"It's what makes New York New York," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a press conference Friday. "There has been some rowdy activity by a small handful of people." However, NYPD officers were handing out fliers stressing that they would stop revelers who publicly consume alcohol.

Santacon NYC is vowing to clean up its act.

"Santacon has had growing pains," the event's organizers said in a press release on the NYC SantaCcon website. "With a little elbow-grease from the elves, a little patience from the community, and just a pinch of holiday magic, Santacon can spread joy."

Santacon.info, a website that attempts to keep up with SantaCons wherever they are -- and assist organizers in publicizing them -- maintains a list that on Saturday showed 146 locations where events will be taking place this weekend and next, from Helena, Montana, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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