Forty drunken Santas rampaged through central Auckland on Saturday night, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards in a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas.
Police said some of the Santas threw beer bottles, one tried to climb the mooring rope of a cruise ship and a security guard was punched during the fracas.
Three arrests were made and a fourth is likely, on charges ranging from disorderly behaviour to possessing offensive weapons
"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," convenience store staff member Changa Manakynda says. The Santas also allegedly attacked a Christmas tree.
The event organiser, Alex Dyer, had warned the antics would only stop when someone was arrested. The incident was linked to "Santarchy", a worldwide phenomenon designed to undermine the commercialisation of Christmas.
Santarchy and online encyclopaedia wikipedia record protests going back around 10 years in the United States, with participants marking Christmas in an anti-commercial manner involving street theatre, pranks and public drunkenness.
Police said identification was a key issue as they tried to sort out which of the 40 men and women had done what.
"With a number of people dressed in the same outfit, it was difficult for any witnesses to confirm the identity of who was doing what," Senior Sergeant Matt Rogers says.