The Legend Of The Reindeer
The legend of flying reindeers (eight of them) was probably originated in the 19th Century when Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The reindeer are sturdy, short-legged animals, having a brownish coat that is dark in the summer and light in winter; the long hairs under the neck, the fur just above the hoofs, and the region about the tail are almost white. The stag measures about 1.8 m (about 6 ft) in length and is about 91 cm (about 36 in) tall, measured at the shoulder; the doe is somewhat smaller. The animals have large, spreading hoofs that enable them to travel on snow-covered areas. They feed on vegetation such as grasses, leaves, mosses, and lichens, obtained by scraping away the snow cover with their antlers and hoofs.
For many centuries reindeer have been domesticated in their original habitat, which ranges from Norway into northern Asia. They have been trained to wear harnesses because of their strength, speed, and endurance in pulling sleds over snow.
The Origins of
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the only new addition to the folklore of Santa Claus in the twentieth century.
In 1939, Robert May, an advertising copywriter for the Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago, sought something novel for its Santa Claus to distribute to parents and children. He came up with the idea of a shiny-nosed reindeer, a Santa's helper. An artist friend, Denver Gillen, spent hours at a local zoo creating whimsical sketches of reindeer at rest and at play. May considered many names and finally settled on Rudolph, the preference of his four-year-old daughter. That Christmas of 1939, 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet were handed out in Montgomery Ward stores across the country.
Rudolph was reprinted as a Christmas booklet sporadically until 1947. That year, a friend of May's, Johnny Marks, decided to put the poem to music. One professional singer after another declined the opportunity to record the song, but in 1949, Gene Autry consented. The Autry recording rocketed to the top of the Hit Parade. Since then, three hundred different recordings have been made, and more than eighty million records sold. The original Gene Autry version is second only to Bing Crosby's, White Christmas, as the best-selling record of all time.
Rudolph became an annual television star, and a familiar Christmas image in many of the countries whose own lore had enriched the international St. Nicholas legend.