You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixen…but do you?


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Santa’s Reindeer!

Madison O'Connell, Managing Editor

The night of December 25th as Santa is yelling, “Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen,” do you ever wonder how and where the 8 reindeer got their names? These reindeer are said to pull Santa’s sleigh through the night sky to help him deliver gifts to children on the night of Christmas Eve. You may have already noticed that I missed one, the one reindeer who is known for his nose sinning so bright, Rudolph.

Santa’s original reindeer had their first mention in an 1821 illustrated children’s poem, “Old Santeclaus with Much Delight.” The much more famously known poem written in 1823, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” also known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” officially gave Santa his 8 reindeer. According to most scientists, Santa’s reindeer should be female since male reindeer usually shed their antlers before the Christmas season.

Although over the years Rudolph has gained fame and has appeared in multiple books, films, Christmas decorations, TV specials, and songs, he never was one of the original 8 reindeer.  Rudolph, who is said to lead Santa’s sleigh, was created by Robert May in 1939 according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News. Often referred to as, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Rudolph was created for a Chicago department store, Montgomery Ward. It is said that after looking at the thick fog rolling off Lake Michigan, Robert May was inspired to create Santa’s 9th reindeer with a bright nose to lead the way.

Santa’s original 8 reindeer are said to get their names from either their personality traits or skills. Donner and Blitzen, which were originally referred to as Dunder and Blixem, got named after two Dutch words, thunder and lightning. According to Holidappy, Dasher’s personality trait is how he loves to go fast, which is how he got his name, “Dasher.” Dancer is said to be completely extroverted and is skilled in all kinds of dance. Prancer is said to be skilled at prancing which is most likely how he got his name, “Prancer.” Vixen is known for being a trickster. Comet is known for being very handsome, easy-going, and skilled with kids. Cupid’s name is self-explanatory as he is very affectionate and said to be skilled at bringing people together. Donner is loud and skilled at singing. Blitzen is fast as a bolt and can electrify others.

As there are many theories on how Santa’s reindeer may have gotten their names, the meaning behind them often tends to be very simple. So, this year as you curl up and read your favorite Christmas movie and Santa’s reindeer are referenced, you now have a better idea of how they came to be!


“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” -Scott Calvin 1994.