The 12 Mysteries of Christmas, Day 8: Why is Santa’s Sleigh Pulled by Reindeer?


On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love queried me: “Why does Santa use reindeer to pull his sleigh? Why not horses? Or Alaskan huskies, for that matter?  They’re used to pulling sleds! Or even polar bears?”

Dear Soul,

What a silly question! Everyone knows that polar bears can’t fly!

Fact is, for an answer to this question we can most likely look to Clement Moore’s famous poem. “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” better (if incorrectly) known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,”  although other books published before Moore’s poem also referred to Santa being drawn in a sleigh with reindeer, and the concept was long popular in Russia, where Father Frost appeared in villages in a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

Here’s the pertinent part from Mr. Moore:

. . . when, what to  my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
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 call’d 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 . . .

No mention of a ninth reindeer with a glowing red nose here—Rudolph didn’t enter the picture until 1939, when he debuted in a booklet written by Robert L. May and published by Montgomery Ward.

My take: Huskies, horses and polar bears don’t rhyme with appear. ‘Nuff said.  

Recipe for Reindeer Cupcakes

  • 1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® cake mix (any non-swirl flavor)
  • Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
  • 1 container Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting
  •  Betty Crocker® chocolate sprinkles
  • 24 large pretzel twists
  • 24 miniature marshmallows
  • 24 red cinnamon candies
  • 24 small green gumdrops

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Make and cool cake as directed on box for 24 cupcakes. Frost cupcakes with frosting. Sprinkle chocolate shot over tops of cupcakes. For each cupcake, cut pretzel twist in half; arrange on cupcake for reindeer antlers. Cut miniature marshmallow in half; arrange on cupcake for eyes. Center gumdrop below marshmallow halves for nose. Place red cinnamon candy below gumdrop for mouth. Store loosely covered.


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