Santa Claus’ reindeer are a team of flying reindeer traditionally held to pull the sleigh of Santa Claus and help him deliver Christmas gifts.
The first appearance of any of Santa Claus’ reindeer is in an 1821 poem (“Old Santeclaus with much delight / His reindeer drives this frosty night …”) that does not specify the number of reindeer, but the accompanying illustration depicts the sleigh being pulled by only one.
The 1823 poem by Clement Clarke Moore, the reindeer’s second appearance, explicitly depicts a team of eight reindeer. The commonly cited names of the reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (or Donner), and Blitzen. They are based on those used in the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (commonly called "The Night Before Christmas"), which is arguably the basis of the reindeer's popularity as Christmas symbols.
Public Domain Literary Appearances
- “Old Santeclaus with much delight …” (poem), in A New‐Year’s Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve, part 3, The Children’s Friend, vol. 3, 1821. The text does not specify the number of reindeer, but the illustration depicts the sleigh being pulled by only one. (Yale U. Library)
- “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clarke Moore, The Troy Sentinel, 23 Dec. 1823. (page online)
- Reprinted many times with multiple alterations, including in The New‐York Book of Poetry, New York: George Dearborn, 1837. (Internet Archive)
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902). L. Frank Baum gives Santa ten reindeer, rather than eight, whose names are Flossie and Glossie, Racer and Pacer, Reckless and Speckless, Fearless and Peerless, and Ready and Steady.
- Mrs. Santa Claus, Militant: A Christmas Comedy, by Bell Elliott Palmer, 1914. There are repeated references to the reindeer, and the injuries they sometimes sustain, throughout the play, with Santa Claus mentioning two of them as D. & B. (Dunder and Blixem). (Google Books)
- “There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane: A True Account, if Only You Believe It, of the Life and Ways of Santa, Eldest Son of Mr. and Mrs. Claus,” by Sarah Addington, The Ladies’ Home Journal, vol. 38, no. 12, Dec. 1921. (HathiTrust)
- “The Great Adventure of Mrs. Santa Claus,” by Sarah Addington, The Ladies’ Home Journal, vol. 39, no. 12, Dec. 1922. (HathiTrust)
- Although Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer is arguably "the most famous reindeer of all," he was created in 1939 and, thus, is not in the public domain.
- The reindeer Cupid is not to be confused with the Roman god of the same name who is the son of Venus. The reindeer Comet is not to be confused with the MLJ character, the Comet. And the reindeer Flossie is not to be confused with the Tooth Fairy.