The history of Santa’s reindeer is a fascinating topic that has captivated generations of children and adults alike.
Here, the Christmas.co.uk team explores the origins and evolution of these much-loved characters, as well as their roles and activities on Christmas Eve.
Santa is a legendary figure who brings presents
Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, or just Santa, is a famous character who brings presents to our homes on the night of December 24th – if we have been well behaved!
He is often depicted as a jolly old man who has a white beard, wearing a red suit and hat, and carrying a sack full of presents.
He lives at the North Pole with his wife Mrs Claus, his elves who make the toys, and his reindeer who pull his sleigh.
Modern image of Santa Claus
The modern image of Santa Claus as we know him today was largely influenced by two sources: a poem and a drawing. In 1823, an anonymous poem titled “A Visit from St Nicholas” was published in a New York newspaper.
It described how St Nicholas arrived on a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (later changed to Donner) and Blitzen.
He came down the chimney with a sack full of toys and filled the stockings of the sleeping children.
He then winked at the narrator, who had seen him through a crack in the door and flew away with a merry ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’.
The poem was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, a professor of literature and theology.
A plump and cheerful old man with a white beard
In 1863, a cartoonist named Thomas Nast drew a series of illustrations for Harper’s Weekly magazine depicting Santa Claus as a plump and cheerful old man who has a white beard and a red suit trimmed with fur.
He also added some details to Santa’s story, such as his home at the North Pole, his workshop where he made the toys with his elves and his list of naughty and nice children that he checked twice.
Nast’s drawings were widely popular and became the standard image of Santa Claus for generations.
Most famous of the reindeer is Rudolph
The most famous of the reindeer is Rudolph who was introduced in 1939 by Robert L May, an employee of Montgomery Ward department store.
He wrote a story about a young reindeer who had a shiny red nose that glowed in the dark.
In it, Rudolph was teased for being different by the other reindeer and then one foggy Christmas Eve, he was asked by Santa to lead the sleigh and help guide him in the night.
Rudolph went on to be a hero – and accepted by his fellow reindeer.
The story was printed as a booklet and distributed to millions of children as a promotional gift by the store.
In 1949, May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote a song based on the story that became a hit record by Gene Autry.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Why not join in with the famous song, here it is animated by Kid Saga?
It’s a fun and upbeat offering.
Helpfully, they have added words to the screen!
Santa’s reindeer have magical abilities
Santa’s reindeer are not ordinary animals. They have magical abilities that allow them to fly across the sky at incredible speeds.
You can read more about Santa’s physics and how hard Rudolph and his reindeer friends work in this Christmas.co.uk article.
They can also communicate with Santa and each other through telepathy.
They are loyal and devoted to Santa and his mission of spreading joy and goodwill to the world.
Each reindeer has its own personality and role in the team:
Dasher is the fastest and most agile of the reindeer. He loves to race and compete with others. He is always ready for action and adventure.
Dancer is graceful and elegant. She is an expert in ballet and other forms of dance. She is also very artistic and creative.
Prancer is proud and confident. He likes to show off his skills and charm. He is also very friendly and sociable.
Vixen is smart and clever. She can solve any problem or puzzle. She is also very witty and humorous.
Comet is kind and gentle. He loves children and animals. He is also very helpful and generous.
Cupid is romantic and affectionate. He likes to make others happy and spread love. He is also very charming and handsome.
Donner is strong and brave. He can endure any hardship or danger. He is also very loyal and protective.
Blitzen is energetic and enthusiastic. He likes to have fun and make jokes. He is also very optimistic and cheerful.
Rudolph is shy and sensitive. He was insecure about his red nose, but he learned to accept himself and use his gift for good. He is also very courageous and heroic.
Reindeer of Santa Claus in Lapland Finland
In this YouTube video, you will learn the secrets of Father Christmas’ reindeer.
Find out what Rudolph and his friends eat during the year as they build up their energy levels for their Christmas Eve journey.
And learn how they actually fly!
This SantaTelevision video is well made and fun!
Santa and his reindeer embark on their most important mission
On Christmas Eve, Santa and his reindeer embark on their most important mission of the year: delivering presents to all the children of the world in one night.
They start from the North Pole and fly across different time zones, following the night.
They visit every house where there are children who believe in Santa Claus, regardless of their location, culture or religion.
Santa goes down the chimney or finds another way to enter the house, while the reindeer wait on the roof or nearby.
Santa fills the children’s stockings with sweets and small gifts and leaves larger presents under the tree or in another designated spot.
He then eats the cookies and drinks the milk or other treats that the children have left for him as a sign of gratitude and hospitality.
Sometimes, Santa leaves a note or a card thanking them for their kindness and wishing them a merry Christmas.
He then returns to his sleigh, gives a whistle or a shout and flies away to the next house.
Santa’s reindeer help in many ways
The reindeer help Santa in many ways during his journey; they pull his sleigh with all the presents, which will be very heavy!
And despite having to pull so much weight, they navigate through the sky using their senses, instincts and magic.
They avoid obstacles such as clouds, planes, birds or other flying objects.
They also protect Santa from any dangers or threats they may encounter, such as storms or lightning. They also keep him company and cheer him up with their songs, jokes and stories.
The reindeer also have some fun along the way.
They enjoy the sights and sounds of the different places they visit.
They marvel at the beauty and diversity of nature and culture – and sometimes they play games or pranks on each other. Or on Santa.
Santa’s reindeer also interact with other animals they meet, such as dogs, cats, birds and even mythical creatures like unicorns or dragons.
After they finish their task, Santa and his reindeer return to the North Pole, where they are greeted by Mrs Claus, the elves and other friends.
They celebrate their success with a feast of delicious food and drinks.
Then they get to exchange gifts and stories with each other. They also rest and relax after their long and exhausting night.
Remember, Santa and his reindeer are more than just characters in a story.
They are symbols of hope, joy, generosity, friendship and magic that inspire millions of people around the world every year.