Of course, it's usually the inflammatory headlines that make the news, so we decided to go and see for ourselves what really happens when you crowd thousands of people together in festive fancy dress, tell them to 'spread Christmas cheer' and give them an unlimited remit for public drinking.
Early Saturday afternoon, near Holborn Station. We spot our first Santas running across the road on Southampton Row.
Santa can stop traffic if he likes, as is proven many times later. From a distance, it sounds like a football crowd — drunken chanting and all.
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We find Santa milling around Great Queen Street. There are various SantaCon start points, but we are following the 'North' route, which started a few hours earlier in Granary Square, King's Cross. First impressions? Santa is noisy and boisterous. Lady Santas sip lattes in the front of Pret. Some Santas carry pillows - we later see them being thrown over the heads of the crowd.
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Santa has stopped near Sainsbury's. He seems to have lost his momentum. We start walking south and find a far larger group on Great Queen Street, headed towards the Freemason's Hall. This line has more purpose, spilling onto both sides of the pavement. There is the sporadic shouting of "Merry Christmas" at bemused bystanders and nervous looking shopkeepers. There is music, there is laughter. And there are sprouts. We see one such sprout hit a guy in the face outside the Sainsbury's on Southampton Row.
Later we see a man in front of us hit in the shin, shortly before we too take a sprout to the knee as opposed to an arrow to the knee. It comes, trebuchet like, sailing over a group of people. In the trail of Santachy, amidst all the drink bottles, the occasional crushed sprout can be found. The atmosphere?
Raucous but not sinister - a little edgy from all the sprout throwing. Multiple Santas wield Christmas trees with spent beer cans impaled upon the branches.
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A garbage truck tries to get by, some Santas climb aboard, others appear to be trying to chat with or distract? You only hope that nobody falls into the compactor. Just after, a shifty-looking Santa tosses a sprout at the back of female Santa. Is that how Santas flirt with one another? More Santas are climbing onto the columns by the front of the Freemason's Hall.
One Santa takes something out of a Ziploc, as another Santa holding a can of Strongbow implores him to "go easy on it". We keep heading towards the music and the beating heart of the merriment. There's a black flag flying — part Chris Kringle, part Jolly Roger. To help you plan your day we have also provided some travel information - if the grotto is in the centre of London it's probably best to use public transport but for those a little further out we have given some advice if you're planning to travel by car.
At the Wish Cannon, children fill in a Christmas Wish List, put it in a special container and then see their list zoom up the tube and activate a puff of smoke. Snowflake Scope allows children to look through microscopes at artificial snowflakes magnified thousands of times. At Snow Control children can play with levers, buttons, cranking wheels and telephones, which light up, beep, start music and even release jets steam.
And when they enter the Snow Chamber, children will meet Santa and get a present and have a photo taken to buy. Parents can take their own photos, too. Opening times: Various, opening at 10am or 11am and finishing between 5. Book tickets: Online here. Nearest mainline train station: Shepherd's Bush. Find out more here. And, of course, children will be able to meet Santa himself in the Snow Chamber, have their photo taken and get a present too. Nearest Tube station: Stratford on the Central and Jubilee lines.
Buses which stop near here: 25, 69, 86, 97, , , , , , , , , , , , , and D8. Parents can take photos of the special moment or buy a professional one. You can't book your visit to Santa's Grotto, though, so it's first come, first served and you'll want to give yourself plenty of time to wait your turn. If it's a busy day, the queue might close early so everyone in it will have a chance to be seen.
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Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and Santa Land within it are free to enter but you will need to buy tokens for the rides. There are also other attractions and events, including ice skating , circuses and Christmas markets , which you can buy tickets for. Nearest mainline train stations: Paddington and Victoria. Christmas in Leicester Square returns courtesy of festival and event organiser Underbelly, with a programme of festive entertainment.
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In his grotto, Santa will tell children a festive tale before hearing each child's Christmas wishes, posing for a photo with them and giving them an early Christmas present. Sessions begin every 30 minutes. Book tickets: Online here or on the door. Wondering what the kids will want for Christmas? This video shows what they might be asking Santa for :. Where could be a more appropriate place to meet Santa than in the famous Regent Street toy shop, Hamleys? Weekend dates are already fully booked but there was still availability for some weekday slots at the time of writing.
As part of a group session, children will hear magical stories of Christmas , write their own Christmas wish list and meet Father Christmas himself.
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The Hamleys Elves will be there and children will be able to chose a cup of Scrumpalicious sweets from the pick and mix. Each session lasts 45 minutes and includes up to 12 children. It's suitable for children aged three to seven. Opening times: 9am-7pm - December weekend dates are already fully booked but there was still availability for some November 24 and 25 weekend and December weekday slots at the time of writing. In an hour-long visit, children will take a journey though areas of the Royal Albert Hall and and meet some characters from the North Pole. There will be the toy soldiers, fairies, workshop elves, toymakers and, of course, Santa along the way, and some fun activities.
Parents , who go free with their children, can take photos of their little ones with Santa and buy a professional photo too. Nearest mainline train stations: Victoria and Paddington 30 minutes walk. Read an Excerpt. Run Time 40 min. Categories ISBN 13 Customer Reviews "Great holiday show! Families loved it. Wonderful children's show. Little kids in "furry" costumes were adorable. Atkinson Community Theatre, Ft. Atkinson, Wis. Hints, Tips, and Tricks "Keep the set simple. The costumes make the show. Story Book Theatre, Calgary, Alberta.