While the world seems to want to start the Christmas holiday season the day after Halloween, I easily manage to hold off getting into the spirit until after Thanksgiving. The first Saturday in December often gets me going.

For most of the past 21 years, the season kicks off for me with the annual Reindeer Run in downtown Charleston, where some of the more fun-loving participants run or walk in holiday costumes and many bring decked-out dogs. It's the imaginative costumes -- due largely to a very competitive costume contest -- and the race's holiday theme that will get the grumpiest Grinch to smile.

People tend to hang around a little longer for post-race festivities because of the contest, complimentary beer at the race host site, Southend Brewery, and music. This year, the Cordovans will perform.

The run starts at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of Southend on East Bay Street.

This year's event may be even more festive -- the nearby Vendue Inn plans to make it snow.

The inn has purchased three snow machines to use during the holidays, specifically Thursdays through Saturdays in December, and will debut the snow at the Reindeer Run, according to Jude Wagner, the inn's chef. In conjunction with the run, Wagner said the inn also will have carolers and Santa Claus stationed in front of the hotel and restaurant during the event, which lasts most of the morning.

As for the event itself, Charleston Charitable Society race director Cameron Widman said the group is hoping to register 3,500 people, and that registration last week was ahead of last year's year-to-date record of 3,100. She adds, "We hope that the good weather forecast will hold out so more people will continue to register."

The forecast, as of Tuesday, looks promising with cool temperatures and nearly no chance of rain.

More than half of the people who register for the Reindeer Run are not competitive enough to even ask for a timing chip, which is the only way to get an accurate count of the actual number who do the 5K route that starts and ends in front of Southend.

Last year's 1,740 finishers set a new record by 307, set in 2007. With prize money for top finishers, it also drew Kenyan Julius Kogo and Russian Ludmila Stepanova, who crushed previous finish records with times of 14:09 and 16:59, respectively.

Ultimately, the Reindeer Run is about raising money for charity.

Widman said last year's event raised $71,000 for the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital and $17,000 for the Charitable Society of Charleston's Endowment Fund with the Coastal Community Foundation. Through its history, the event has raised $440,000 for the hospital.

Widman said the charitable society's goal for this year is $90,000.

All that fun and fundraising isn't free. Registration for those who want to be timed is $35 and must be completed by Friday. The fee for walkers is $30; participants with a dog also must register their pup for $10. In-person registration and packet pick-up is 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Friday at Gaillard Auditorium. Race-day registration is $40 for everyone, and it doesn't include timing tags and must be done between 7 and 8 a.m. at Southend.

For more details, visit www.reindeerrun.org.