COVID-19 upends SantaCon Boston, Santa Speedo Run

COVID-19 has caused two local groups of Santas to cancel their traditional festivities this year in Boston, but they promise to be back next year when the coronavirus pandemic, they hope, is under control.

Next Saturday, shoppers on Newbury Street may not get to chuckle as hundreds of people dressed in nothing but Speedos and Santa hats stampede by in the annual Santa Speedo Run, which has raised $2 million over the last 20 years for local charities.

Instead, organizers are encouraging small groups of socially distanced friends to do their own runs anywhere on camera and post their videos with the hashtag #SSRunBoston on social media, said Pete Thamel, who is on the board of Play Ball, the charity the event has benefited for nearly 10 years.

“There’s a hole in our hearts that for the first time in two decades we can’t all do this together,” Thamel said. “It’s become a fun part of the fabric of Boston. And it’s such a valuable fundraiser, we want to keep the spirit of it alive.”

Play Ball supports middle school sports in Boston, Lawrence and Holyoke, districts that might otherwise not have the funding for sports ranging from flag football and hockey to volleyball and Double Dutch.

“The Santa Speedo Run started as kind of a lark between friends, but it’s grown into a pretty powerful fundraiser,” Thamel said. “We want kids in these districts to have the same opportunities we had. And we chose junior high because it’s a critical age for kids’ self esteem. This is a chance to give them some structure. It keeps them in school, they get better grades, and it helps build a sense of community that schools can rally around.”

Under the headline “The year that canceled SantaCon Boston” — an annual convention for Santa lovers who dress up like their favorite Christmas characters and go on a bar crawl — “Saint Nick” broke the news on Saturday to his fellow Santas on the group’s Facebook page:

“It is my sad duty to inform you that due to the global effects of Covid-19, there will be no SantaCon in Boston this year,” he wrote. “The reindeer are sick and have a 2-week quarantine ahead of them. The elves are busy making face masks, hand sanitizer and testing kits. Santa isn’t a dummy; this is no time to gather in large groups.”

Under “some ways to spread merriment (not infection) this year,” he suggests supporting the venues that have hosted SantaCon Boston in the past or donating to a local charity.

“Please stay on the Nice list this year by staying home, wearing your mask, social distancing and helping those in need,” he adds. “We look forward to seeing everyone in 2021.”

Read More