Stop me if you've heard this. 40 Santas walk into a bar....

Forty drunken Santas rampaged through central Auckland, stealing from stores and assaulting security guards, the New Zealand Herald reported on Sunday, in a protest against the commercialization 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.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," convenience store staff member Changa Manakynda told the Herald, which reported the Santas also attacked a Christmas tree.

The event organizer, Alex Dyer, had warned the antics would only stop when someone was arrested, said the Herald, which linked the incident to "Santarchy."

Santarchy (www.santarchy.com) and online encyclopedia wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) record protests going back around 10 years in the United States, with participants marking Christmas in anti-commercial manner involving street theater, 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 told Reuters.

Some people will use any excuse to get drunk and rowdy. Santarchy? Sounds like fun.

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