Santa Claus is a Christmas icon, but he wouldn't be anywhere without his reindeer. They are an integral part of the Santa Claus legend and bring joy to millions of people. Learn the names of Santa's reindeer yourself to prepare for the holiday season.
Santa's Eight Reindeer Names
Santa's original eight reindeer made their first appearance in the 1823 poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," in the Troy Sentinel newspaper. Its author was anonymous. The poem was later attributed to Clement C. Moore when he included it in a volume of his works. The poem would later be known as "The Night Before Christmas."
In the poem, eight tiny reindeer pulled Santa's sleigh, and Santa called them by the following names:
- Dunder (today, Donner)
- Blixem (today, Blitzen)
The Dunder and Blixem Debacle
Most children and many adults have never heard of Dunder and Blixem. That is because the names mentioned in the original "A Visit from St. Nicholas" poem were later modified to Donder and Blitzen.
According to Snopes, it was rumoured that Moore was not the author of the poem but a Dutch New Yorker named Henry Livingston. The poem's authorship is still questionable, but whoever wrote it gave two of Santa's reindeer names from a popular Dutch expression, "Dunder and Blixem!" which meant "thunder and lightning." When publisher Charles Hoffman printed a later version of the poem in 1837, the name Dunder was changed to Donder and Blixem to Blixen, indicates Snopes. Finally, when Moore printed his volume of poems which included "A Visit to St. Nicholas" in 1844, he kept the name Donder and changed Blixen to Blitzen.
At some point, although exactly when and why remains a mystery according to Snopes, Donder was changed to Donner and the title of the poem changed to "The Night Before Christmas" or "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
The Arrival of Rudolph
Despite being the most popular of Santa's reindeer, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was not included in the original "A Visit from St. Nicholas" poem. He arrived on the scene in 1939 when Montgomery Ward copywriter Robert May created him for a store Christmas promotion. The rest, as they say, is history and Rudolph is now included amongst Santa's reindeer and can be found leading the herd.
Names and Gender Associations
Based on their names, it's often assumed that Santa's reindeer are a mix of male and female but according to Live Science, that is not so. In fact, based on depictions of Santa's reindeer herd, they are all female. Each of Santa's reindeer has large antlers. Yet male reindeer shed their antlers at the beginning of December after mating season whereas female reindeer keep their antlers all winter.
Reindeer Name Fun
Knowing the history and some interesting facts behind Santa's reindeer gives you a head start on holiday trivia. It is also offers a conversation starter at Christmas parties and will interest children of all ages who enjoy the magic of the holiday.