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Thousands Of Santas Are Getting Wasted For A Good Cause This Weekend

A record-breaking pub crawl, in the spirit of Christmas.

09/12/2016 12:28 PM AEDT | Updated 10/12/2016 9:57 AM AEDT
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The Santa Pub crawl at the North Wollongong Hotel in 2015.

Santa will be taking a break from making his list and checking it twice this weekend, and instead let his hair down before the Christmas rush with a massive pub crawl in the name of charity.

Well, not just one Santa, that's a bit misleading. Try several thousand Santas, and lots of young women dressed as his wife, and a bunch of reindeer, and lots of elves and a lot more.

Wollongong's Santa Claus Pub Crawl is in its 23rd year, and fittingly, will take over 23 venues in the city for an epic Christmas-themed jaunt on Saturday. Funds raised from wristband sales, raffle draws and donations go toward the Salvation Army for projects in the Illawarra area, south of Sydney; in 2015, organisers said they raised an immense $110,000 for the charity, and they expect ten thousand people -- all dressed in costume, as Santa, Mrs Claus and all the rest -- to descend upon the city for the weekend.

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"It started between my brother and I and a few mates. I was running a few bars at the time, and I'd gotten sick of people coming in at Christmas and getting drink and using the holidays an excuse. It wasn't a lot of Christmas spirit," said pub crawl organiser Neil Webster.

He said his event is recognised as "the longest continually run Santa Pub Crawl in the world", and they proudly claim to have never had a major violent incident in the pub crawl's history. Webster has a personal interest in this statistic -- the event started 23 years ago, but it was in 1997 when Webster himself was the victim of a serious alcohol-related bashing on Christmas Eve in 1997. He said he then rejigged the Santa pub crawl to help promote a positive, safe culture around nightlife, and claimed there had never been a major violent incident in the pub crawl's two-decade history.

"I thought we could do better with this. I wanted to put that message out, you can drink and be responsible and be well behaved," Webster said.

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Webster added that having everyone dressed in silly costumes probably helps this safety record.

"It's hard to get into a punch-up when you've got 5000 Santas standing behind you," he laughed.

"Everyone is like part of the same team, it shines through. It breaks down a lot of social norms. Normally you go to a pub, you usually don't talk to people in other groups, but here, everyone is your friend because you're all here for the same cause. You have little discussions about costumes."

"Those barriers of talking to a stranger are out the window,. Everyone is your friend. We've lost count of the number of people who met at the pub crawl and are now together or married. It's those barriers breaking down."

A storm of Santas, an avalanche of elves and a cavalcade of Christmas cheer will swarm the Wollongong CBD this weekend, with costumes -- some store-bought, some ingeniously home-made, some cheap, some ludicrously expensive and intricate -- as far as the eye can see. The crawl's traditional start is the North Wollongong Hotel, its massive outdoor beer garden becoming a sea of red and white and green until the group begins moving on to the city's other drinking spots, pubs and nightclubs.

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The North Wollongong Hotel in 2015

The night finishes in the wee hours, with the aftermath often requiring a good clean-up job from the countless discarded or lost Santa hats, wigs, felt jackets and other Christmas props.

The Wollongong event is now expanding nationally, with Webster saying satellite events are organised for coming weeks in Melbourne, Sydney, Tamworth and more centres.

For more information, and to buy tickets, see the Santa Claus Pub Crawl website.

See photos of last year's pub crawl by clicking on the slideshow below:

Santa Claus Pub Crawl

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