Flying reindeer a Christmas gift-giving team
by TOM ROWLAND, Cleveland Mayor
Dec 13, 2012 | 824 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Seems many Christmas events I have attended this year have had games that involve naming all Santa's reindeer. So I thought I might need to brush up on my knowledge of Santa's reindeers.

The Reindeer names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen — and, of course, Rudolph came along later to lead the team with his beaconing red nose.

It made me start thinking about "why a legend of flying reindeer delivering gifts?" I remember reading stories over and over through the years to children as it was relayed in the popular books and poems. I found it interesting to read up on this fantasy that has kept children and adults fascinated for generations.

Santa Claus' reindeer, of course, are a team of flying reindeer traditionally held to pull the sleigh of Santa Claus and help him deliver Christmas gifts.

As Christmas legends go, the story of the sleigh with Santa's reindeer is very new. For many centuries there have been stories about a kind old man delivering gifts to children all over the world, whether he's known as St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Santa or any of his other aliases. Stories of the mysterious and generous old fellow have been around since the fourth century. But it wasn't until the 19th century that the eight famous reindeer entered the Christmas scene.

Prior to that, Santa traveled on a white horse in Europe and a donkey in South America. All countries have contributed their own version of the tradition of Santa and his Reindeer team.

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen first appeared in 1823, in the poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas," commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement C. Moore. It didn't take long for them to become an essential part of holiday lore. It soon became common for artists to depict Santa with reindeer. Santa's sleigh full of toys being pulled across the sky by the team of reindeer has become an iconic holiday image.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, was created in 1939 by Robert May, an employee of Montgomery Ward. The department store wanted to create a free giveaway book for children as a promotion. May wrote the story in rhyme for the book, which was a big hit with Montgomery Ward's customers. By the late 1940s, approximately 6 million copies of the book had been distributed. May's words were set to music in 1947. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was recorded by Gene Autry and became a huge hit, cementing Rudolph's place in Christmas history.

New tales and stories of Santa's reindeer sleigh-pulling team continue to make their way into popular culture in the form of books, movies and TV shows, showing us that the legend of Santa's famous reindeer is here to stay.

Even though it isn't in the Christmas story of the birth of Christ, the story of Santa and his mystical reindeer team has a special place in the hearts of children everywhere and is one of the "fun" things that brings new dimension to the Christmas celebration.

My wife loves to tell the story about her brother when he was very small and was questioning the story of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. One Sunday morning, her brother whispered into the ear of his pastor, the late Rev. T.H. Logan. He asked, “Is there really a Santa Claus?"

He apparently thought if anyone would give him the truth about Santa, it would be his pastor. So, very carefully and thoughtfully, the wise old pastor told the little boy, “Well, Tommy. Santa is the spirit of Christmas giving." He went on to remind him the season celebrates the birth of Jesus, the greatest Christmas gift of all. And he told him we are all to give because of the gift that was given us in the form of baby Jesus. In essence, "There's a spirit of Christmas giving in each of our hearts."

Now the rest of the story. Tommy went on to become a minister, have two sons and several grandchildren. Each Christmas at the family gathering, he dons a colorful Santa suit and delights the grandchildren, nieces and nephews as he distributes gifts to them. We're certain he won't ever forget the words of advice from his pastor, "Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas giving ... there's a little Santa in everyone's heart."

So, the flying reindeer team delivering gifts is a fun-filled adventure that young and old alike enjoy each and every year — and it will continue to fascinate generations. A shining, bright beacon lighting up the skies and making way for a fun-filled "Night Before Christmas" adventure.

This holy season, take time to "give" to others and be a Santa Claus in someone's life ... “There's a little spirit of giving in all our hearts.”

2 Corinthians 9:7 comes to mind when we are reminded, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give ... for God loves a cheerful giver.

In Cleveland, Tenn., "The City With Spirit" exhibits a "giving heart" all year long.