It all started on Dec. 23, 1998, in Philadelphia.

Or, more accurately, at Pitchers Pub in Manayunk, a neighbourhood in the north-west corner of Philly. That was the first “Running of the Santas”.

That year, about 40 Santas donned the red and white and ran the entire two blocks of Main Street in Manayunk. Or, perhaps more accurately, they pub-crawled the two blocks.

In 2002, huge demand resulted in the relocation of the Running of the Santas to South Street in Philadelphia. In 2003, there were hundreds of participants. In 2005, Minneapolis joined in with a version of its own.

This past Christmas, Running of the Santas occurred in 25 cities across the U.S. Over 6,000 Santas participated in Philadelphia alone.

So, what’s the point? Well, the event is used to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a foundation dedicated to raising money for children’s cancer research. More than $25 million has been raised by this foundation through efforts such as the Running of the Santas.

Of course, an event like this is bound to be controversial. Nobody can argue that raising money in support of cancer research is a bad idea. However, using an event that involves alcohol definitely throws another light on it.

Picture thousands of Santas, in various stages of sobriety, making their way past kids out Christmas shopping with the parents. This is only possible because many Running of the Santa events are scheduled during daylight or early evening hours.

What were they thinking?

Recognizing the event as one that brings so many people on a pub crawl at once (how do you spell opportunity?), Budweiser and Miller both became involved as sponsors in the event for 2008.

And, both Miller and Budweiser withdrew their sponsorship under a barrage of complaints. Good decision on their part, we think.

We suppose that complaints about this kind of event are to be expected. While we expect that most of the participants would be in it for the fun and fundraising, a few will no doubt be in it to get pie-eyed.

And, let’s face it, the image of Santa having one too many, doubled over in an alley somewhere, leaves something to be desired.

It seems like the whole financial world is collapsing around us these days. And, there is no doubt that this will make things tougher for all of the charities that support one of the hundreds of good causes that are all around us. Let’s all keep in mind, every day, how fortunate we are to live in such a magnificent corner of such a great country and spread that wealth a bit as 2009 unfolds.

We will try to do our part. How about Rudolph’s Revenge beach party, next July?

This column is courtesy of the Yukon Brewing Company, an organization that will certainly not be sponsoring any cage match between the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.