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Where Do They Come From?
A Visit From St. Nicholas
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Do They Come From?:
- Believe it or not, the origins of Santa's
reindeer and Christmas stockings are directly tied!
- Many parallels have been drawn between Santa
Claus and Odin, chief god in Norse mythology. Odin was a major
god amongst Germanic people prior to their Christianization.
- On the native Germanic holiday of Yule, Odin was
said to lead a great hunting party in the sky. Odin had an
eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great
distances. Some believe this is where the idea of Santa's
reindeer was seeded.
- Children would place their boots filled with
carrots, straw, or sugar, by the chimney for Sleipner to eat. In
return, Odin would reward those children by replacing Sleipnir's food
with candy and/or gifts. This practice was still continued in
Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands after they adopted
Christianity. It became associated with Saint Nicholas as a
result of the process of Christianization, and can still be seen in the
modern practice of hanging stockings on the chimney at some homes.
A Visit From St. Nicholas:
the Red-Nosed Reindeer:
- The said order of Santa's reindeer in the popular
poem is: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and
- Until this poem, the myth of Santa's reindeer was
vague at best. They never really had names before, or a set
- The legendary poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas",
is also known as, "The Night Before Christmas" and "Twas the Night
- The poem was anonymously published in 1823, but
credit was later given to Clement C. Moore.
- There is controversy as to whether Clement C.
Moore really authored, "A Visit From St. Nicholas", or if it was,
indeed, authored by Henry Livingston, Jr.
- The now-legendary poem, "A Visit From St.
Nicholas" first appeared in the Sentinel newspaper of Troy, New York on
December 23, 1823. It was published anonymously many times, but credit
has since been given to Clement Clarke Moore. It is because of
this poem that the popular legend of Santa's flying reindeer has become
such a staple of Christmas storytelling.
- Due to a misreading of the original poem, it was
widely believed that Santa's reindeer fly. In the context of
which the words "fly" and "flew" were used, it was meant to say that
the reindeer just ran really fast.
- The names of Donner and Blitzen have an
interesting history. In the original poem of 1823, the names of
these reindeer were the Dutch words Dunder and Blixem, meaning
"thunder" and "lightning". In the book, "An American Anthology,
1787-1899" (1900), editor Edmund Clarence Stedman changed these names
to the German spellings of Donder and Blitzen. Somewhere over the
years, Donder became Donner. In some sources, the spelling of
Bliksem has been found, but Blitzen is the most popular version.
- Cupid is also the name of the Roman god of
love. The myth of Cupid has since changed to the small, winged
child that symbolizes Valentine's Day. In both cases, Cupid
shoots "love arrows".
- Prancer received his very own live-action movie,
"Prancer" in 1989. He was given a 2001 sequel called, "Prancer
- Robert L. May, as part of his employment with the
Montgomery Ward store chain, created the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer" story in 1939.
- Like the much earlier "A Visit From St. Nicholas"
(1823), "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" has become very important to
the story of Santa's reindeer.
- Since the story of Rudolph has come out, many
people think the poem of "A Visit From St. Nicholas" is
misleading. "What about Rudolph?" or "Santa has NINE reindeer!"
are some of the responses children have uttered through the years.
- Cowboy star Gene Autry was the first to record
the popular song in 1949.
- Gene Autry almost refused to record "Rudolph, the
Red-Nosed Reindeer" because he thought it was too commercial.
Fortunately, he changed his mind and it has since become the standard
recording of the song.
- A wonderful, theatrically-released cartoon short
of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" came out in 1948.
- The cartoon that REALLY established Rudolph as a
fixture of Christmas is the 1964 TV special, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed
Reindeer". This is the story of Rudolph that EVERYONE
knows. Love it or hate it, it successfully worked its way into
Christmas lore and has been celebrated every year since its debut.