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Reindeer EB

How Did Santa Get his Reindeer?

Santa's reindeer are probably about as famous as Santa himself - with plenty of stories, songs, rhymes, and Christmas decorations depicting these cute furry friends. But have you ever stopped and wondered where Santa got his reindeer from?

The Original Reindeer

It all started in 1821 with an anonymous children's poem called 'Old Santeclaus with Much Delight.' It's in this poem and its illustrations where Santa is first seen flying a sleigh being pulled by a single, unnamed reindeer. It's also the first time Santa's arrival is described as being on Christmas Eve rather than the Feast Day of St. Nicholas on December 6th.

The poem begins: 'Old Santeclaus with much delight / His reindeer drives this frosty night / O'r chimney tops, and tracts of snow / To bring his yearly gifts to you.'

This brief mention of his reindeer and the accompanying wintery scene of snowy houses became the catalyst for a host of common festive images. It inspired many subsequent stories, illustrations, and poems...perhaps even the most famous poem of them all...


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'Twas the Night Before Christmas

It was only two years later in 1823 that Santa's lone reindeer got some much-needed company! The poem 'A Visit from St Nicholas', also known as 'The Night Before Christmas' by Clement Clarke Moore introduced Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen to the world.

Did you know that Donner and Blitzen were originally called Dunder and Blixem? Dunder and Blixem (actually spelled 'bliksem') is the Dutch for 'thunder and lightning'. There's a lot to mention when it comes to the change in this poem, so we'll try to keep as brief and simple as possible. During a reprint of the poem, the Dutch phrase was changed into Donder and Blitzen. Blitzen comes from the German for lightning whilst Donder was likely an accidental error, but the true reason for the switch in vowels remains a mystery. For those who like things to be neat and tidy, Donder eventually slipped into being Donner, the German for thunder, in the song 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' leading to the famous names we still use today.

In fact, we still use a lot of imagery from this poem today. Whilst Moore borrowed the idea of the reindeer from Old Santeclaus, he still invented a lot of the features we associate with Christmas, including Santa as a large, joyful figure.

"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!"

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Now, aside from a quick mention above, we've yet to meet Father Christmas' most famous of the reindeer, Rudolph. That's because it would be another 116 years before Moore's clan met poor little Rudolph.

In 1939, Robert Lewis May wrote Rudolph's story in a booklet for a department store that had been giving out free colouring books at Christmas. The department store realised that they could save money by creating a booklet themselves, and so whilst staring out of the window on a foggy evening, inspiration struck May and the rest is history. The original Rudolph story is the same one you know - he's a social outcast until Santa realises his red, glowing nose could be used as a makeshift lantern to help guide his way through the fog. 

It was a story that captured children's want to be recognised and appreciated for their differences, cementing itself as a heart-warming story for the winter period and ensuring the tale was one that could be told year after year. The story was written in a similar rhyme pattern to Moore's poem too, making it extra recognisable and intertwining itself, whether consciously or subconsciously, to 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.


Then, ten years later in 1949, May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, turned the story into the famous song 'Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer' - a song we still love, play, and sing over Christmas now. The song helped to bring Rudolph firmly into the consciousness of the masses, officially making him Santa's ninth and final reindeer.

If you love these fluffy, furry creatures, then why not discover our Reindeer Collection to help you make your home feel ridiculously festive?

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