It’s an image familiar the world over: a portly figure, dressed head to toe in crimson, sporting a cartoonish white beard, a stocking cap and rosy cheeks. But the bottle in his hand—Jägermeister, Bailey’s, Jim Beam—signals this isn’t the same gift-giving merry-maker whose arrival children eagerly await each December. This is off-duty Santa, bad Santa—drunk Santa.
The bottle of booze clutched in-hand casts the season’s jolliest figure in a new, unsettling light. Those ruddy cheeks, once innocently considered the aftereffects of dashing through the snow, might in fact be the flushed complexion of a habitual over-indulger. It’s a juxtaposition that should be disturbing, yet drunk Santa lives on as a seemingly endless source of entertainment.
“Santa’s on his lunch break, kids,” reads one Instagram caption portraying a haggard-looking cosplayer, whose fake beard has been pulled down below his chin, breaking character in order to more easily swig from his pocket flask flaunted for the camera.
Perhaps the allure of the trope is not merely the inherent irony of “bad Santa,” but the reminder that even this larger-than-life embodiment of a season’s worth of joy and festivity is not immune to the stresses of his job; he, too, needs to decompress—with a swig or two of Glenmorangie, perhaps. Santa, it seems, is just like us. Or, as one Instagram user summarized: “Santa can’t survive on just milk and cookies.”