Where Did Santa's Reindeer Come From? (Part 1/3)

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. These are the names of the 8 reindeer that pull Santa's sleigh every Christmas when he goes around delivering toys to children. But...where did they come from? Why reindeer? What about Rudolph? I'm curious as well, which is why I did a little bit of digging to find out. 


Turns out, the first reference ever made to these reindeer was from a 1823 poem called A Visit From St. Nicholas, more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas or 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' by Clement Clarke Moore, an American professor who claimed ownership of this poem in 1837. The original writer of the poem is controversial but authorship experts suggests that Henry Livingston was most likely the original author of this poem. The references to the reindeer from the poem is as follows: 

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!"

If you take a look at the reindeer's name, you'd notice that there is rhyme and meaning behind each as well. 

Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid

Santa Claus is pretty cheeky when it comes to naming. These 4 reindeer are named after the attributes described in their names along with the alliteration that can be constructed with them. Dasher is a easy one since the name suggests something which goes really fast, albeit reckless. Dancer personifies how a reindeer appears when running. Comet is a bright flaming seen flying through the skies at great speeds, while Cupid, also flying, is just a great name to end the alliteration. 

Prancer, Vixen

To continue the rhyme with DancerPrancer is named after a common verb to describe horses and deer "Prance". According to the definition given by google:

(of a horse) to move with high springy steps

Vixen, unlike the others, is the most non-intuitive name out of all the reindeer. With the meaning of "female fox" in old English, most agreed that Santa was just lazy and decided to choose the name for the rhyme with Blixem.

Dunder (Donder), Blixem

The most interesting name out of the reindeer is Dunder and Blixem which means "Thunder and Lightning" in Dutch. The name is influenced by the surge of Dutch coming into New York City during the 1800's where the original poem was published. Dunder was the first name used in the 1823 poem but the German counterpart Donder became more popular after the 1844 reprint of the poem by Edmund Clarence Stedman. 

This poem really set a foundation in what modern Christmas celebration is all about and I suggest giving it a read if you have 2 extra minutes to spare. In Part 2, we will talk about why the Reindeer was used for the sleigh.

Fun Fact: The word 'twas is the old English way of saying "It was" 

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