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CHRISTMAS

What are the names of Santa's reindeer?

You might be able to name the most famous reindeer of them all, but if you need help remembering the rest of the crew that pulls Santa’s sleigh, read on.

Update:
You might be able to name the most famous reindeer of them all, but if you need help remembering the rest of the crew that pulls Santa’s sleigh, read on.
Douglas P. DeFeliceAFP

Santa would be hard pressed to get the plethora of the Christmas presents to all the little boys and girls each year without a little help. Besides the elves slaving away at the North Pole all year round, on the big night he can count on his famed reindeer.

Over the years and across cultures the number and names, as well as creature, of these magical coursers has differed, but both have coalesced based on fairly recent popular culture. Nowadays, Old St. Nick is carried from home to home through the night sky by his trusted nine reindeer.

Also see:

Does Santa Claus have one, eight or nine reindeer?

As far as anyone can discern, the earliest that Santa took to delivering his presents on a sleigh pulled by a reindeer dates back to the early 1800s. At least that is when it is known to have turned up in print. However, the names of the reindeer that every child knows by heart, but others of us have a hard time remembering, come from a 1823 poem “A Visit from St Nicholas” better known as “’The Night Before Christmas.”

The author, Clement C. Moore, lived in New York which had been called New Amsterdam prior to the Brits taking possession of the Dutch colony. His work is a mainstay of modern Christmas tradition surrounding the jolly elf that brings gifts to children today. The poem named “eight tiny reindeer” that pulled “a little old driver.”

“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 Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!’”

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The gang of eight was joined over a hundred years later by a nineth reindeer as part of a marketing campaign who would become the most famous of them all. Robert May, who worked writing adverts for Montgomery Ward, wrote a poem to be handed out for free to children by the department store at Christmas.

To say it was a smashing success is an understatement, and thus there were nine reindeer, with the “ugly duckling” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer saving the big day. The story would be turned into hit song and become a classic Christmas movie. Both of which anyone with children or young relatives has heard and seen countless times, and sometimes well beyond the Christmas season.

Changes to the reindeer names

One pair of the reindeer have experienced name changes over the years to help the poem flow off the tongue more easily and with cadence when reading. As mentioned before, they took shape in the 1800s when New York still carried a heavy Dutch influence from its previous colonizers.

However, despite the Anglicization, those that have been changed, have kept the essence of the original names given to them. Donder, was originally Dunder, but became Donner, and happens to be the father of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Blitzen was once Blixem, and the two together mean thunder and lightning, which at the time was a tongue-in-cheek swear.

Reindeer outside the Villa Park stadium
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Reindeer outside the Villa Park stadiumMOLLY DARLINGTONAction Images via Reuters

Reindeer, alligators or elves carry Santa to homes around the world

Moore’s poem is such a classic that others have had some fun with it creating their own Christmas classics in the process. In Louisiana you’ll find “Cajun Night Before Christmas” which was conceived by JB Kling, Jr writing as ‘Trosclair’. The take on Moore’s poem is told in a Cajun dialect with some twists in the story. Not least of which is that St Nicklus, instead of riding on a sleigh comes on a skiff pulled by eight alligators, of course. Their names are Gaston, Tiboy, Pierre, Alcee, Ninette, Suzette, Celeste an' Renee.

An even more recent take on Moore’s poem is Richard Scarry’s “The Night Before the Night Before Christmas!” In his efforts to be helpful around Busytown, Mr Frumble gets the idea that he can be of use at the North Pole. However, as is Mr Frumble, he causes Santa Bear to head out a day early to hand out gifts around Busytown. So enlisting the help of Santa Bear’s helpers as his coursers Mr Frumble sets off to save Christmas.

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