We’ve all heard the poem by Clement Clark Moore, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, but the original poem was actually entitled, A Visit from St. Nicholas. After reading this heart-warming verse, I wondered how the reindeer got their names.
Turns out each reindeer has a personality to match the name given to them. Before we get into that, let’s pay homage to the remarkable writer who penned our beloved poem.
A Visit From St. Nicholas
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
I haven’t read this in so many years that I look upon this poem with new eyes, as a writer and not merely an excited child. It’s no wonder this verse became wildly popular. Clement Clark Moore could write! Look at the craft in his words, his vivid descriptions and metaphors. What a talented author. I’m in awe, which takes me by surprise. It’s funny how differently writers view things, and this poem is no exception.
So I began to wonder how Moore chose his reindeer names. Apparently, there’s an entire history on each one. Yes, we’re veering into fictionland, but just roll with it.
Originally there were eight reindeer.
Dasher: Before Rudolph joined the pack, Dasher was the first reindeer on the right. He was the leader and the fastest of all.
Dancer: Placed next to Dasher, on the left, he is the most graceful of all.
Prancer: Behind Dasher on the right, he is the most powerful of all.
Vixen: Who is female, by the way, takes her place next to Prancer on the left. She’s extremely beautiful and also very powerful.
Comet: Stands behind Prancer on the right, and is as fast as a comet.
Cupid: Also female, unlike my K9 Christmas story, Cupid stands beside Comet in the third row on the left. She got her name because she makes children happy as the reindeer fly from their houses.
Dunder (now called Donner): He stands behind Comet (closest to the sleigh) on the right. It’s said his names is derived from Thunder, which is how he flies through the night sky.
Blitzen: Also female, she flies lightening fast beside Dunder, on the left.
But what about Rudolph?
Rudoph the red-nosed reindeer joined the crew in 1939 when a copywriter, Robert L. May, working at Chicago’s Montgomery Ward & Co., wrote a holiday story at the request of his employer. Almost two and a half million copies of the sweet tale about a reindeer with a shiny red nose were given away to all the children who visited Montgomery Ward stores that year.
The story says the other reindeers always laughed and called him names. One Christmas Eve, Santa was having trouble delivering gifts in the fog. That night he visited Rudolph, and his nose brightened the entire dark stall. Santa asked if he’d like to guide his sleigh. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What would your name be if you were a reindeer? Tell me in the comments.
My name would be Cocoa Rocketberg.
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