There was a reason for these elves to be jolly.
That large squad of Santas, elves, reindeer and assorted other manifestations of the holiday season wandering through downtown Portland on Saturday night were participants in Santacon, a nightlong pub crawl and fundraiser now in its sixth year.
The only requirements are a holiday spirit, a willingness to partake in holiday spirits and some sort of holiday costume that would identify you as one several hundred Santacon-ers.
Santacon was one of a handful of holiday events in southern Maine – others included surfing Santas and nighttime carolers in Kennebunk – that helped move the season into full gear this weekend.
Samuel Cousins, one of the organizers of Santacon, said the event is a way to add a night of grown-up festivities at a time of year when much of the attention is focused on the young.
“This is something for the adults,” Cousins said, as he and a few dozen other Santas kicked off the evening with drinks in an upstairs bar at Pat’s Pizza, the first of seven bars on tap for the night, ending at Brian Boru’s until closing time.
Cousins said he wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic participant at the outset of the first Santacon in 2008, which attracted only about 25 to 30 people.
“I was sick as a dog,” he said, “but they stood a Santa hat on me and I was wearing a red shirt, so I kind of fit in.”
Cousins felt good enough to hang in for the whole night, although he admitted that he wasn’t too well the next day. Still, it was such fun, he said, that he stuck with it all night and has been back every year since. Santacon has since added a fundraising component, collecting supplies and donations for Family Crisis Services.
Nick – yes, Nick – Delaney of South Portland had the look pretty much down for his first Santacon on Saturday night, with a $20 Santa outfit and a real beard, although he mixed in some white face paint to lighten it up for the night.
It wasn’t quite perfect, he admitted, with the beard a little more closely trimmed than the one that’s permanently in fashion at the North Pole.
“I shaved it after the World Series and now I’ve got a beard for another year,” he said.
At Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk on Saturday, more than a dozen surfers turned out for the first annual Santa Surf event, where surfers donned Santa costumes and took to the 45-degree water to ride the waves.
The event was organized by the Maine Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation to raise money for the organization as well as to heighten awareness of its mission, which is to advocate for beach access and work on behalf of environmental issues.
A contest awarded prizes for the best beard, the most jolly and the best reindeer. Ryan McDermott of Freeport, who won the contest for most jolly, lived up to the award by saying he was not deterred by the chilly water.
“It seemed like a … sweet thing to do,” he said.
Before the surfing event, the group held a cleanup at Gooch’s Beach, filling six buckets with trash and gathering a large pile of broken lobster traps.
Later, at the Franciscan monastery in Kennebunk, more than 1,000 people gathered to sing Christmas carols in 20-degree temperatures. The caroling was just one of numerous events of Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, which started this past Thursday and runs through next weekend.
Holding candles and song sheets containing lyrics to traditional carols, such as “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night,” the group was led by a few Franciscan brothers and musicians playing in an ornate stone grotto.
Gregory Rec, staff photographer, contributed to this report.
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: