Santa Claus, the North Pole, and the nine flying reindeer are deeply intertwined into the modern mythology of the Christmas season. While the idea of a jolly old saint being flown around on a magical sleigh by 9 flying reindeer might seem a little odd, the idea of flying reindeer actually goes back thousands of years. Some of the earliest cave paintings found in France and Spain depict flying reindeer. There was actually a significant amount of time thousands of years ago in Northern Europe that was actually called the “Age of the Reindeer”. But where did the modern flying reindeer myth come from and who are Santa’s nine flying reindeer.
The Legend of the Flying Reindeer
The legend of Santa Claus’s flying reindeer is most accredited to the famous poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore in 1823. In this famous story Clement C. Moore depicts Santa being pulled around on a giant sleigh by 8 magical, flying reindeer, each with their own specific names and personalities. You probably know the 8 reindeer today as Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
You may not know, but each reindeer name coincides with different abilities each reindeer comprises. For example, the name Dasher signifies having great speed or quickness. Dancer and Prancer were given because both reindeer displayed a magical grace and elegance. Vixen is also a name for a female fox, which symbolizes powerful speed and swiftness. The name Cupid was given because this term has to do with the grace of flight. Comet also has to do with great flying ability, named after a large ball of fire that travels through space at very high speeds. The last two reindeer Donner and Blitzen, are Dutch terms for “thunder and lightening”, which signify great power and force.
Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer
You probably noticed that I was missing a reindeer, perhaps the most famous reindeer of all. You guessed it, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. However, Rudolf actually came along much later in Santa’s flying reindeer legend. The story of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer was created in 1939 by Robert L May. However, the story of Rudolf really began to take off in 1949 with the now famous song recorded by Gene Autry called “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
If you remember the story, because of Rudolf’s bright red nose, he was considered a misfit among the other reindeer and not fit to fly on Santa’s sleigh or play in any reindeer games. But that was until one foggy Christmas eve. It was so foggy outside at the North Pole that Santa could not see where his sleigh was going and was going to have to cancel Christmas for that year. But then he had a brilliant idea. Because he couldn’t see anything he came to Rudolf and said “Rudolf with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” Then after that all the other reindeer loved Rudolf as they all shouted out with glee. Rudolf was responsible for saving Christmas and is now the most famous reindeer in history.