The history & origin of Santa’s Reindeer
We all know Rudolph, but what are the names of the rest of Santa’s faithful reindeer? There are, in fact, eight original Christmas reindeer as detailed by the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (commonly known as The Night Before Christmas):
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner & Blitzen
Dasher gets his name because he is the fastest reindeer of the whole pack. He used to be lead reindeer but was replaced by Rudolph because he kept going too quickly and the rest of the group couldn’t keep up! He first caught Santa’s eye as a young calf when he challenged all of the older reindeer to a race and comfortably beat them all. Every day since, he has not stopped trying to race the other reindeer which really gets on their nerves because they all know he’s going to win! Because of his natural speed, Dasher can get a bit complacent and often doesn’t turn up to sleigh riding training so Santa sometimes has to tell him off!
The reindeer with the most flair and elegance, ever since Dancer could walk, all he wanted to do was dance. Constantly putting on performances for the other reindeer, Dancer was even offered a contract to perform on Broadway but his ultimate dream was to work for Santa and help deliver presents on Christmas Eve. Along with his twin brother Prancer, he studied hard at the Reindeer Aviation Academy in Lapland in order to graduate with his Christmas Wings and achieve his ambition.
Just like his twin brother, Prancer is a supremely graceful and majestic reindeer, except he is all too aware of it. Every Christmas Eve, Santa Claus has to drag him away from preening himself in the mirror and polishing his horns to go and deliver the presents on time. Prancer and Dancer are tied next to each other in the pack so that Dancer can keep an eye on his easily distracted twin brother.
Voted as Reindeer Monthly’s most beautiful reindeer of all time, Vixen always attracts a lot of attention from male reindeer. Cupid in particular is totally besotted with her prettiness and elegant flying style. It is no secret that Vixen enjoys this interest however, as she is known as a notorious flirt and will flutter her long eyelashes at anyone to get her way.
Comet is the strongest of all the reindeer and is known for being a stubborn but loyal member of the team. He was named after an enormous comet which flew through the skies at the same moment he was born, which would foretell Comet’s future as a famous flying reindeer.
Cupid is the most romantic and passionate of all the reindeer. Born on Valentine’s Day, Cupid has taken it upon himself to act as match-maker amongst the Lapland reindeer, but unfortunately has not been as successful with his own love life as he has with the others, like celebrity couple Rudolph and Zoey. Madly in love with Vixen, he is constantly trying to impress her, although Santa had to separate the two of them since Cupid kept flying into obstacles as he was unable to take his eyes off her.
Sometimes known as Donder and Dunder, Donner’s name means “thunder” and she is not a reindeer to be messed with! Married to Blitzen, they are the mum and dad of the reindeer group and have to discipline the younger ones if they step out of line. Donner looks after the others from making sure their hooves are clean, to cooking hearty meals before their long journeys distributing presents.
Husband to Donner, Blitzen is the bravest member of the team, never one to back down or give up in the face of adversity. He encourages the rest of the team even through the toughest storms to make sure that they successfully deliver their presents in time for Christmas morning. His name means “lightning”, some people say because he has been struck so many times, and together with Donder they make a formidable couple that are the backbone of this magnificent bunch.
Rudolph is the youngest and most famous of all the reindeer, universally celebrated for his heroics in the storm of 1939. How he was born with his legendary bright red nose, no-one knows but children all over the world are very glad he was as he has led the team through many wintery nights as a shining beacon. At first, Dasher was not very happy to have been replaced as lead reindeer but after seeing how well Rudolph could guide the sleigh through even the thickest fog, he was quickly won over and only too happy to act as second in command.
Traditionally, Santa’s sleigh is pulled by 8 reindeer, as in the 1823 poem A Visit From St. Nicolas: ‘Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!’
Rudolph was introduced into the pack in 1939 in a famous story of stormy weather and heroism, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. A small, young reindeer with a bright, luminous red nose, Rudolph was teased by the others for being different, and they didn’t allow him to join in with all of their fun activities. However, one Christmas Eve, the weather was so foggy that the reindeer kept getting lost and couldn’t give out all of Santa’s presents. Santa spotted Rudolph’s bright nose and asked him to lead the sleigh as a guiding light for all of the others to follow through the blizzard. Rudolph agreed, and Santa managed to give out all of his presents successfully. Christmas Day was saved, and Rudolph returned a hero!
In modern times, Santa is recognised as having 9 reindeers - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph.
Rudolph and the rest of the pack are usually busy around Christmastime, but for the chance to meet their friends and go on a magical sleigh ride, have a look at Lapland reindeer rides in Finland.
L. Frank Baum’s 1902 story The Life and Adventure of Santa Claus includes 10 completely different reindeer names - Flossie and Glossie, Racer and Pacer, Fearless and Peerless, Ready and Steady, Feckless and Speckless.
Another common misconception is that there is a 10th reindeer called ‘Olive’, after mishearing the line “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names” in the famous Rudolph song.
This story is detailed in the famous Christmas carol “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”
“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall?
The most famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!”
Read the legendary poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” which has inspired so much of our knowledge about Santa Claus and his famous reindeer:
“'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
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, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”