The Origin of Santa's Reindeer

Santa's reindeer come to mind as soon as you start to think about Christmas. We've all heard the legend about Santa flying around the world to deliver toys in his sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, but they weren't always part of the Christmas celebrations.

Different Ways to Travel
As Christmas legends go, the story of the sleigh with Santa's reindeer is very new. For many centuries there have been stories about a kind old man delivering gifts to children all over the world, whether he's known as St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Santa or any of his other aliases. Stories of the mysterious and generous old fellow have been around since the fourth century. But it wasn't until the 19th century that the eight famous reindeer entered the Christmas scene. Prior to that, Santa traveled on a white horse in Europe and a donkey in South America.

It is believed that Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzer first appeared in 1823, in the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement C. Moore. It didn't take long for them to become an essential part of holiday lore. It soon became common for artists to depict Santa with reindeer. Santa's sleigh full of toys being pulled across the sky by the team of reindeer has become an iconic holiday image.

Santa's Newest Friend
But what of Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of all? Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, was created in 1939 by Robert May, an employee of Mongomery Ward. The department store wanted to create a free giveaway book for children as a promotion. May wrote the story in rhyme for the book, which was a big hit with Montgomery Ward's customers. By the late 1940s, approximately six million copies of the book had been distributed.

May's words were set to music in 1947. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was recorded by Gene Autry and became a huge hit, cementing Rudolph's place in Christmas history.

New tales and stories of Santa's reindeer sleigh-pulling team continue to make their way into popular culture in the form of books, movies and television shows, showing us that the legend of Santa's famous reindeer is here to stay.

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