Santa's Reindeer - The Definitive Ranking | Big Horn Basin Media

Santa’s Reindeer – The Definitive Ranking

Written by on December 21, 2020

Since 1823, “The Night Before Christmas,” alternately known as “A Visit From St. Nicholas” has defined the iconography of many Christmas traditions. One of those is the team of “eight tiny reindeer” who pull the sleigh carrying holiday hero and eventual mall staple Santa Claus and his bag full of (admittedly) dull 19th-century toys. “Oh, it’s a child’s rocking chair but its shape like a horsey!”

The addition and number of reindeer have become as integral to Christmas as Santa himself. But which deer is best, dear? It’s a question you’ve probably never asked, but it’s high time it’s answered.

This will be the definitive ranking of Santa Claus’s team of Christmas reindeer.

Sidenote: Santa is definitely European. I’m sorry, but his preferred mode of transportation gives it away. Reindeer exist in North America, but they are called caribou and are undomesticated. Seeing as Santa has not only tamed his team but they are not introduced as “eight tiny caribou” we have to assume Kringle adopted the vernacular of his region. 

Honorable Mention: Rudolph 

I have the utmost respect for Rudolph – his contribution to the holiday cannot be ignored. However, he came to the table in a self-insert fanfic song and now has an admittedly charming but bonkers stop-motion animation special and the spot at the lead of the team. 

Rudolph has had his day and then some, so I’ll be focusing on the eight-core reindeer. 

  1. Donner

Guilt by association. In addition to having the least descriptive and most unassuming moniker – what is a Donner? What does it do? – this name is tainted thanks to historical events. Namely, the infamous pioneer troupe who were trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the winter of 1846-47 and resorted to . . . I’ll leave it at that. 

A dull name that makes one reflexively think of human cannibalism? Sorry, Donner, you haven’t aged well. 

  1. Prancer 

Deer prance. And, presumably, reindeer prance. While certainly apt, Prancer has been cursed with unimaginative parents. It reeks of the same lack of originality as Mufasa naming his only son and heir Simba (which literally translates to “lion” in Swahili.) 

Prancer prances. Good to know but not terribly interesting . . . actually, not interesting at all. 

  1. Dasher 

Reindeer can reach a top speed of 50 miles per hour (thanks, Wikipedia!) Dasher must’ve made quite a mark during the reindeer games to be bestowed such a title. Perhaps he broke the reindeer dash record. His “dashing” must have earned him a spot as the #1 guy on the team – or is he at the back of it?

Side note: Has anyone ever established the exact order of these guys? Thanks for the plothole, disputed author of the original poem Clement Clark Moore. 

Much like Prancer, Dasher is apt but unoriginal. His consultation prize will be successfully avoiding the Coca Cola polar bear when they finish downing the soda and are eyeing a venison dinner. 

  1. Vixen 

An eyebrow-raiser, to be sure. A vixen, by literal definition, is a female fox. Popular culture has commandeered the term to reference an attractive woman. Neither lends any explanation to why its’ the name of a mid-tier sled team reindeer. It’s befuddling, but I like a good mystery. 

 . . . why? Probably because it rhymes but I still have questions. 

  1. Dancer

The highest-ranked of the utilitarian reindeer names. This one, at least,  suggests an activity not typically associated with reindeer. What is your preferred style, Dancer? Tango? Ballroom? Were you the one rocking around the Christmas tree? 

Dancer’s name suggests a life of passion outside of the Christmas limelight. We all need our hobbies. Good for you, bud. 

Side note: are these deer all guys or is there a mix? Both male and female reindeer spot impressive sets of antlers. A mystery the world may never solve . . . 

  1. Cupid 

Not a bad name for a reindeer, but I do question Santa’s intent with this one. I can’t help but feel this is throwing shade at another holiday icon. It’s as if to say, “I have a deer that can fly and doesn’t need tiny wings and a diaper to do it. Your move, lover boy.” 

Santa’s being cheeky or is secretly a Greek mythology nut. Either way, it works. 

  1. Comet. 

An excellent reindeer name, truly excellent. A name that makes “Dasher” look even worse by comparison. The imagery of a comet streaking through the skies in a fiery blaze just makes sense for a deer pulling a sleigh and a fat man across the sky in record time. This is just solid in every respect. 

A comet killed the dinosaurs. If you told me it was this Comet – I wouldn’t believe you. But a damn good name, nonetheless. 

  1. Blitzen 

This is the most iconic reindeer name. Hands down. No debate. You can imagine any number of things and images with the other names – Comet, Dancer, Donner (eww.) Hell, even Rudolph.  But only one image comes to mind when you hear Blitzen – a reindeer attached to a sleigh. It’s evocative, unique,  rounds out the immortal call of St Nicholas as he cries their name. Too bad Donner has to be right next to him, but at least he benefits from being paired with the best. 

It just works. To use the parlance of our times: Blitzen be bitchin. He “sleighs.” 

In summary . . . Merry Christmas. 

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