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Santa's Reindeer: Their Names and Characteristics

Updated on December 8, 2017
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is a licensed and ordained minister and Bible teacher.

Santa's Reindeer

Santa's reindeer are named in the popular Christmas poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The names are called out in the poem that was written in 1823 by Clement C. Moore and originally called "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

The animals form a team of flying reindeer used to pull Santa's sleigh to help him get from place to place in a hurry to deliver Christmas gifts to boys and girls all over the world.

While the reindeer work together as a team, each reindeer has its own individual traits and responsibilities.

Traditionally, Santa's sleigh is led by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Rudolph was not part of the original team. Santa uses Rudolph only when there is bad weather.

Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!


Dasher's name describes his main characteristic. He is always ready to "dash" off because he is fast and ready to go. He has lots of energy to be on the team with the other reindeer.


Dancer is the youngest female on the team. In fact, she is the youngest reindeer of them all. She is named after what he does. She is a graceful dancer among the reindeer. She had strong legs that were just a little longer than the other reindeer. If there were a "Dancing with the Reindeer" show, she would surely win the contest.


The reindeer that was full of energy and loved to have fun is Prancer. Prancer is the only reindeer to have a spinoff movie of his own. Prancer is the youngest male reindeer on Santa's team.


Vixen is the oldest female reindeer on the team. The other reindeer could rely on her to encourage them even in bad weather. Vixen is clever and strong-willed. She is usually harnessed alongside Dancer.


Comet is not as fast as Blitzen, but he is fast enough to do his part. Comet is usually hitched with Cupid to keep the team flying even in strong winds and bad weather.


Cupid is always hitched at the front of the team because he flies straight as an arrow. He has a keen sense of direction that always keeps the team flying. Usually, Cupid and Comet are harnessed together to keep each accountable.


Donner is described as the most powerful of the reindeer. Donner's name means “thunder” in German. Donner is the oldest of the reindeer and is placed at the front. He is harnessed alongside Blitzen closest to the sleigh where their strength is needed the most. Don't be surprised if you see his name spelled Donder in some documents.


Blitzen is the fastest reindeer on sleigh team. Blitzen is the German word for “lightning.” He is the second strongest reindeer and is always hitched with Donner right next to the sleigh.

Rudolph was not part of the original team. He is called only in foggy weather.
Rudolph was not part of the original team. He is called only in foggy weather. | Source


Rudolph is added to the team when needed. He was never part of the original team. He is used only in foggy weather.

Rudolph is not listed in the 1823 original version of the poem. The story of Rudolph is recorded in a separate book about a reindeer with a very shiny nose that glowed in the dark. He was the smallest of all the reindeer, and the one to save Christmas.

Rudolph's story was originally written by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward department stores in 1939. The book was given to children in the store at Christmas time. According to this original story, Rudolph's glowing red nose made him a social outcast among the other reindeer. Visiting Rudolph's house to deliver his presents, Santa observed Rudolph's glowing red nose in the dark and used it as a headlight to guide his sleigh in the severe fog. Rudolph accepted Santa's request to lead the sleigh for the rest of the night, and he returned home a hero for having helped Santa Claus.

Rudolph, with his red nose, has gone done in history as the most famous reindeer of them all even though he was not one of the original reindeer and not a character in "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Fast and always ready to "dash off"
He dashes out the door.
Graceful dancer
Loves to dance
Youngest and loves to have fun
Loves to primp
Oldest female
Encourages everyone
Easy Going
Loves children
Loves people
Take Charge Reindeer
Very fast
Last to join be on team in emergency
Nose glows in the dark

Rudolph is not a permanent member of the team.


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