Santa’s original team of reindeer were made famous by Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas.” You may know it as “Twas the Night before Christmas.” In the poem, Moore mentions 8 reindeer by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.
L. Frank Baum wrote “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus” in 1902. In his story there are 10
reindeer named Flossie, Glossie, Racer and Pacer, Fearless and Peerless, Ready and Steady,
Feckless and Speckless. These reindeer have not caught the imagination of the public the way
Dasher and the gang have. Perhaps they were Santa’s original team and were replaced once they
Rudolph joined the team later after a song by Robert Lewis May brought him and his red nose to the public’s attention. He is the youngest, but probably the most well-known of the nine reindeer.
Although most of the reindeer are referred to as ‘he’, indicating they are male, it is biologically unlikely that Santa’s reindeer are male. Male reindeer shed their horns during the winter. Santa’s reindeer are always pictured with lovely, big horns and, as Christmas is in the winter in the northern hemisphere, the reindeer must be female. But then reindeer only live about 10 years and they don’t fly so why quibble about some things and not others.
Although there have been many books written and movies made over the years that feature various other reindeer in Santa’s herd, it is these nine that are the most popular and well known.
Dasher, as his name suggests, loves speed. He is the fastest of Santa’s reindeer and loves to race whomever will take him on. He flies right behind Rudolph when pulling the sleigh and makes sure all the presents are delivered on time. It is his job to keep the team on schedule on Christmas Eve. He is also quick with a joke and has a good, but dry, sense of humor. He is excellent company and his friends love having him around.
Dancer lives up to his name at every opportunity. He loves to dance and can do most dances with pizazz. He is always joking around and trying to get a dance party going. If there is a special occasion, Dancer is the one to organize the festivities. He is good company, friendly and outgoing. It is often his hoof beats that can be heard on the roof on Christmas Eve as he cannot stand still and is always doing some dance moves.
Prancer is graceful and gentle. She walks and flies and even runs with grace. She is very concerned with the way she looks and there is never a hair out of place. She is well-groomed and loves to be in the spotlight. She often entertains the elves and other reindeer with her singing and dancing. She loves to spend time with her friends, partying or just chilling.
Vixen gets her name from a female fox. While foxes are often depicted as sly and sneaky, Vixen is anything but. What she does have in common with a fox is her ability to adapt and fit in. she is always trying new things and loves to share her new hobbies with her friends. She is also as clever as a fox and is probably the most intelligent of the reindeer. It is her job to help Santa plan the Christmas Eve route according to the list, ensuring all good children receive a gift.
Comet is the reindeer flying coach. He teaches the young reindeer how to fly and how to pull a sleigh. He is strong and confident and can be quite harsh sometimes. He doesn’t understand weakness or difference as he has always fitted in due to his large, strong physique. He is the strongest and biggest of the reindeer. When Rudolph first arrived Comet was probably the main instigator of the teasing. But once Comet is your friend he is loyal and will stand by you through thick and thin.
Cupid is friendly and kind. He cares for his friends and is always making sure that everyone is happy and getting along. He didn’t join in the teasing of Rudolph when he first arrived but he was not confident enough to stand up for him against Comet. Cupid is serious and quiet. When he falls in love he falls head over heels. He is a very loyal friend and is ready to help anyone in need. He is always giving gifts and helping people.
Donner gets his name from the German word for thunder and he can be a bit of a thundercloud. He has a quick temper and tends to sulk if he does not get his own way. Despite this, he is a true friend and is the first person his friends call if they need help. In the 1964 stop motion cartoon, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, Donner is Rudolph’s father. He is a loving father but doesn’t understand that differences are what make us special. He tried to hide Rudolph’s red nose as he was embarrassed to have a child that did not fit in. Once others accepted Rudolph, Donner did too.
Blitzen means lightning. Blitzen is probably the most confident and grounded of Santa’s reindeer. His quiet confidence is probably the reason he is last on the list in Moore’s poem. Both Moore and Santa knew that he would not mind being left to last. He is Santa’s go-to reindeer when there is a problem as he never panics and handles any situation calmly and efficiently. He is the true leader of the team.
Rudolph joined the team late. As every child who’s ever moved schools knows, it’s difficult to fit into a new crowd, especially if you are a little different. Rudolph has a bright red, shining nose. This made the other reindeer tease him and he became self-conscious and insecure. It was only when, on a misty Christmas night, Santa needed Rudolph’s glowing nose to guide the Christmas sleigh that the other reindeer stopped teasing him and he became an accepted member of the team. He can be seen leading the team on Christmas Eve whatever the weather. Rudolph is helpful, playful and a little shy but he can step up and be a leader when he needs to be.