Santa Claus – About the Reindeer

The Original Eight Reindeer

Santa Claus began his association with Reindeer in 1821 – an event that was chronicled in a narrative published by a New York printer in a booklet called ‘A New Year’s Present’:

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

This rather sketchy introduction became the legend we know today in the 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”. Written by American writer Clement Clarke Moore, the poem is now better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Mr. Moore not only described what Santa looks like, he gave names to all the Reindeer:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.

Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away! dash away! dash away all!

In later years, Dunder and Blixem were renamed Donner and Blitzen in some countries.

Enter Rudolph

Rudolph was introduced in 1939 in a booklet for the Montgomery Ward department stores. It was written by Robert L. May.

Rudolph’s story was made famous in a song written by Johnny Marks. Sung by Gene Autry in 1949, it became a No. 1 hit that year.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
They day if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows…

Why do some people say there are Twelve Reindeer?

Some people say there are actually 12 Reindeer, but these people simply misheard the lyrics of Rudolph’s song:
‘All of the other reindeer is NOT ‘Olive the other reindeer’,
‘Then how all the reindeer loved him’ is NOT ‘Howe the reindeer loved him’,
‘As they shouted out’ is NOT ‘Andy shouted out’.

Are the Reindeer male or female?

A viral factoid (circulating since the year 2000) suggests that Santa’s reindeer are all female because male reindeer lose their antlers by December. Reindeer experts say that while most male reindeer do drop their antlers by early December, some younger bulls keep theirs well into spring. Of course, a discussion about the gender of normal reindeer is probably a waste of time. Santa’s reindeer can fly and that suggests they are an entirely different species.

A Bit of Photoshopping

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
– Twas the Night Before Christmas –

I like taking photos of the moon. Sadly, Santa and the Reindeer have never crossed over the moon when I was looking at it. Happily, a bit of ‘photoshopping’ fixed that! I took a photo of the moon on a slightly overcast night, then created a new layer in Photoshop Elements to superimpose Santa and his reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

What would Santa say as he disappeared into the night!? Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good-night!

For the Young and the Young at Heart

If you want to see Santa and his Reindeer in action on Christmas Eve, visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website. The long history of this excellent outreach program is told in the story here: North American Aerospace Defense Command Tracks Santa.

12 thoughts on “Santa Claus – About the Reindeer

  1. Thank you so much for the history of Santa’s reindeer. Apparently there is a breed of reindeer than can leap quite far; perhaps that’s where the idea of flying reindeer comes from. I love your image of Santa flying past the moon. Wonderful. Merry Christmas, Margy.


  2. I didn’t know Donner and Blitzen had different names – I like their current names better. You did a wonderful job superimposing Santa and his reindeer onto your moon shot Margy. Merry Christmas to you as well.


      1. Thank you Margy and best wishes to you as well. For us, we are having some magical weather here in SE Michigan – the 50s all week – pretty much unheard of Christmas week. It’s a good chance to get out and walk and visit my furry and feathered friends.


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