Black, white and red all over. And no, we are not talking about newspapers here. We are talking about Santas. Hundreds of them. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I boarded my subway train with my mom and my little brother one frosty December Saturday about two weeks before Christmas. They were packed into the uptown No. 4 Lexington Avenue line like a can of red, white and black sardines! I was surrounded by a sea of teenagers and college students dressed up like St. Nick. You could even hear the constant “Ho ho ho” above the deafening noise of the New York City subway.
There were all kinds of Santas. They wore red suits lined with white and cinched by black belts. They wore black boots and Santa hats. There were long white beards everywhere. Some of them were carrying sacks of “toys.” Others were dressed up as elves. Some even wore reindeer headbands with felt antlers attached.
“What’s going on?” I asked my mom in disbelief. Was I imagining all this? Was I dreaming? Was I going absolutely insane?
“Wow!” my mom answered. She was just loving this whole thing!
We got to our stop only to find more Santas. They were crowded into the elevator we rode from the subway up to the main street. Some were stomping in through the turnstiles and some were going out through the turnstiles. One of them gave my little brother, Stephen, a candy cane. He is six and his eyes were as big as saucers at this phenomenon.
We were able to get away from the chaos for a while because we went to our health club and went swimming. But when we returned to the street the madness wasn’t over by a long shot.
We rode another train packed with you-know-who and walked down to the South Street Seaport. My mom had to do some last-minute Christmas shopping and I was anxious to get away from the noisy confusion of the Santas.
Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted them to.
Take a wild guess at what we found when we got to the seaport. Yup, more Santas! There were Santas eating ice cream at the little outdoor ice cream stand. Others were standing around drinking beer from plastic cups. A couple of older Santas were hanging out down by the docked ships, chatting and smoking cigarettes. My brother was appalled. “I didn’t know Santa smoked!” he said to me. Really, what could I say to him?
Mom was still excited about the whole thing and went off to ask one of the Santas what it was all about. When she returned she explained it was some sort of annual tradition that spread through the Internet and all college students dressed as Santa and roamed the city.
Then my mom started looking at me strangely.
“What?” I asked.
“Well, Olivia,” she said, “with your belted red parka jacket and your black boots, all you need is a red fur-trimmed hat and you could be a Santa yourself!”
I was horrified to think I could be mistaken for one of these crazy college kids!
“Mom!” I scolded, but at the same time I opened my coat to reveal a very un-Santa-like T-shirt.
* * *
In the late afternoon, we boarded the train still packed with Santas and headed home. The hectic and weird day finally ended when we walked through our front door. I still felt dizzy from all those Santa costumes. Mom was still giddy as a teenager herself about the whole event. (I might add that she referred to me as her “little Santa” all the way home!)
I’m kind of worried about Easter. Will my city be invaded my millions of bunnies? I’ve got to remember not to wear anything pink or any kind of floppy hat as Easter nears. You never know what is going to happen in the Big Apple!