Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Flying reindeer

Santa Claus' reindeer is a team of flying reindeer traditionally held to pull the sleigh ofSanta Claus and help him deliver Christmas gifts. The commonly cited names of the reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (or Donner), and Blitzen.  The names of Donner and Blitzen derive from Germanic words for thunder and lightning, respectively.

The subsequent popularity of the Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has led to Rudolph often joining the list.
The 1823 poem by Clement C. Moore "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas" or "Twas the Night Before Christmas") is largely credited for the contemporary Christmas lore that includes the eight flying reindeer and their names

…More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen!
"On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!...

Why Reindeer?
In 1821, the first lithograph book published in America set the foundation for the idea of flying reindeer. Entitled "Children's Friend," the book told of a magical Santa Claus who rode a sled pulled by a single reindeer. It's not clear if the anonymous author came up with the concept himself, or perpetuated an already-blooming concept of Santa and his reindeer.
Reindeer are native to the frigid Northern tundras, which are notoriously chilly. Because of this, it is easy to associate them with cold weather-- which, of course, peaks around Christmas time. Santa's flying reindeer team may have contributed to his own reputation as someone who came from the North Pole-- historically, many European children believed that St. Nick visited from Spain.
Why Flying?
It isn't entirely clear if the idea of flying reindeer came about by accident. Although the "Children's Friend" shows Santa Claus with a reindeer, it doesn't explicitly state that the reindeer could fly. The famous poem "A Visit from Saint Nick," or "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore, popularized the concept, but it may have actually been the result of a misreading.
The poem does state that the reindeer "fly" to the houses of good children, but some experts believe that this is a mis-reading. Perhaps Moore used the term metaphorically, in the same way that he refers to the narrator "flying" to the window. Nevertheless, the idea of flying reindeer caught on quickly-- both because it enhances Christmas magic and because it helps to explain how fast Santa travels.


  1. "A Visit from St. Nick" was the first poem to name Santa's flying reindeer. The poem identified eight reindeer-- Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem. "Dunder" and "Blixem" are Dutch words meaning "Thunder" and "Lightning" respectively. However, they have been altered in recent decades to "Donder" (or "Donner") and "Blitzen," which are the German equivalents of these terms. Perhaps these translations are a bit more friendly to an English-speaking audience.

    In 1939, Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer was added to the list of Santa's reindeer. Robert L. May, a poet, composed the "Rudolph Song" for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores. The song was printed in books and distributed to children during the Christmas season.

    Other songs and poems have given other names for Santa's flying reindeer, although none have taken great popularity. One poem names Santa's reindeer as Racer, Pacer, Fearless, Peerless, Ready, Steady, Feckless, and Speckless. Other tongue-in-cheek names for Santa's reindeer include Randalph, Chuy, Tavo, Beto, Pancho, Pedro, Leon, Cletus, George, Bill, Slick, Do-Right, Ace, Blackie, Queenie, Prince, Spot, Bruce and Marvin, popularized by relatively modern comedy songs.

  2. Real Reindeer Facts~

    Did you know that male and female (that's the boys and the girls) reindeer both have antlers? Even the calves (babies) produce antlers. Antlers are sometimes called "racks".

    Caribou are the only other deer where males and females have antlers. The antlers will fall off after several months, but don't worry- they grow back.

    Reindeer calves weigh about 14 pounds when they are born. Adult females weigh about 162-187 pounds while the males 200-220 pounds on average. An adult reindeer stands about 3 1/2- 4 feet tall. That is the average size of a typical 7-8 year old child! How tall are you compared to a reindeer?

    Calves are born between May and June and grow very quickly so they can keep up with the herd. They can stand and walk within minutes of their birth. Calves are born with teeth so they can start eating right away. They also drink milk from their mothers.

    Reindeer live in cold. snowy places- like close to the North Pole. Who else do you know that lives at the North Pole? Reindeer can be found in northern parts of North America, Asia, and Europe where it is colder. How do they keep warm you ask? Well they have thick wooly fur. Their hair is hollow inside. This provides them with a form or insulation. It also allows them to lay in the snow without emitting heat and melting the snow. This way they can stay dry (and warmer). In the summer, their fur thins out to help them stay cool.

    Reindeer have large hooves that spread apart as they walk on the snow. They act like snowshoes and prevent the reindeer from sinking in the snow! Have you ever tried walking with snowshoes? These special hooves also help them look for food beneath the snow. The tendons in their hooves create a clicking sound when they walk.

    Reindeer travel together to look for food. We say they travel in herds. These herds can range from 1,000-10, 000 reindeer!

    Wild reindeer are herbivores. That means they eat plants. Reindeer enjoy eating high quality leaves, stems and buds. They really like edible mushrooms. Do you like mushrooms? They also eat lichen which is a moss that grows on the ground. . Reindeer can be selective in what they eat.

    Reindeer are very strong and can carry a load that weighs as much as they do!

  3. The original eight reindeer

    The 1823 poem by Clement C. Moore "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas" or "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") is largely credited for the contemporary Christmas lore that includes the eight flying reindeer and their names.

    The relevant segment of the poem reads:

    when, what to to my wondering eyes should appear,
    but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
    with a little old driver, so lively and quick,
    I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

    More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd 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!"
    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
    So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

    In An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman reprints the 1844 Clement Clarke Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen," rather than the original 1823 version using the Dutch spelling, "Dunder and Blixem."Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English, though German for thunder is now spelled Donner, and the Dutch words would nowadays be spelled Donder and Bliksem.

  4. In modern times, other reindeer have been named in books, movies, and television shows but none have become well-known and generally accepted members of the team. These other names include: (Please add names to this list if you know of other examples, and please add the origin of the name if you know it.)

    1. The 2002 South Park Christmas special, "Red Sleigh Down", introduces an entirely new fleet of reindeer after the traditional reindeer are killed, when the sleigh is shot down as Santa tries to bring Christmas to Iraq. The main characters rescue him by using the alternative reindeer named: Steven, Fluffy, Horace, Chantel, Skippy, Rainbow, Patches and Montel.

  5. All but the last name come from the poem: 'Twas the Night before Christmas, commonly credited to Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863). It was actually written in 1807 by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) with the title Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. The names "Donner" and "Blitzen" were changed by Moore from "Dunder" and "Blixem."


    Perhaps the most popular of all animals in Christmas tradition are the reindeer that draw the presents-loaded sleigh of Father Christmas, alias Santa Claus. In fact, this is quite a recent addition to Yuletide lore, stemming for the most part from the fertile imagination of a languages professor from New York called Clement Moore - best-remembered today, however, for his delightful poem 'A Visit From St Nicholas'. Penned in 1822, its opening lines famously read: "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;".

    It was here that Santa's eight trusty reindeer, each with its own name, made their debut, but just as Santa supposedly derives from Lapland, so too, most probably, did Moore's inspiration for his antlered steeds. For according to Lapp mythology, the snow and freezing cold weather typical of northern Finland at this time of year is brought down from the mountains to the plains each winter by a herd of reindeer, driven by a suitably chilly figure known as Old Man Winter. Prior to Moore's poem, Santa was normally depicted as riding a white horse, and sometimes even a goat!

    Last, but certainly not least, is the most unlikely member of Christmas - the kangaroo! However, in modern times it has indeed gained Yuletide associations, at least in Australia, where modern fables tell of how Santa's sleigh is drawn through the sky here not by reindeer but instead by a team of burly bull kangaroos, or boomers (as immortali