Santa and his Reindeer
By: John Shepler
Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who speaks Mandarin. In Argentine that would be Felices Pasquas Y Felices Ano Nuevo. Nearer Santa's home at the North Pole, Eskimos say Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!
Is there really a Santa Claus? Silly question. It was resolved back in 1897, when Virginia O'Hanlon wrote the editor of The New York Sun wondering if her doubting friends were correct. "Yes, Virginia," was the emphatic response, "there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy."
Are you aware that our North American Air Defense Command has tracked Santa's path on radar for the past four decades? NORAD's primary mission is to track aircraft and missiles. They report any that are potentially hostile to the President of the United States and Prime Minister of Canada. As such, all Christmas sightings must be verified as to their authenticity. Two Canadian jets are deployed to establish visual contact and verify that the objects leaving the North Pole are indeed Santa, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.
NORAD started providing tracking data to the public in the early 1950's, when a Colorado Springs store advertised a special Santa "hotline" for kids and misprinted the number to be the operations "hotline" of CONAD, the predecessor of NORAD. Colonel Harry Shoup took the first Santa call and, realizing what had happened, had his staff check the radars and report Santa's current position to the kids calling in on Christmas Eve. Since then, NORAD has provided updates to radio and TV stations and now has a web page with information about Santa's whereabouts in several languages.
NORAD also has the specifications on Santa's Sleigh. Designed and built by K. Kringle & Elves, Inc., the Sleigh is 75 cc (candy canes) or 150 lp (lollipops) long and 40 cc or 80 lp wide. It takes off with a weight of 75,000 gd (gumdrops) and is propelled by 9rp (reindeer power) consuming high octane organic fuels. Emissions are strictly classified. With less than a millisecond to deliver toys to each child in the world who believes in Santa, NORAD analysts have concluded that the Sleigh somehow functions in a different time and space continuum than what we experience. Such Einsteinian operations require tremendous energy, which is fueled by the 12 billion grams of protein from cookies and milk provided at households around the world.
Do you know that we have been calling one of the reindeer by the wrong name all these years? In an expose entitled "The Donner Party's Over," it is revealed that the names were first established in a poem by Clement C. Moore published in the New York Troy Sentinel in 1823. The poem is the famous "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" and clearly proclaims "Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!
What happened to poor Donder? Well, the story actually starts with Rudolph. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was penned in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward in Chicago who wanted a Christmas story they could give away to their shoppers. May drew on the tale of the Ugly Duckling and his own background as a child taunted for being shy, small and slight. He took Denver Gillen from the art department and went to the Lincoln Park Zoo to sketch some reindeer, with one having the characteristic red nose added to fit the story. Wards distributed 2.4 million copies in 1939 and later turned the copyright over to May so he could pay the medical bills from his wife's terminal illness.
Meanwhile, Robert L. May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a song version of the story also called "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949 and it became an instant smash, selling 2 million copies that year alone. Only in the song, the name of one of the reindeers changed from Donder to Donner for reasons unknown. It's been speculated that it might have happened because Blitzen is German for lightning and Donner is German for thunder, although Donder is also Dutch for thunder. Regardless, we're pretty much all programmed now to say "on Donner and Blitzen."
Hope all your holiday stories have happy endings. Wishing you and yours the best of the season...Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom, Nollaig chridheil huibh, Sawadee pee Mai, Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!, Chung Mung Giang Sinh, Buone Feste Natalizie, and Sinifesela Ukhisimusi Omuhle Nonyaka Omusha Onempumelelo!
Also visit these related sites:
Merry Christmas in Many Languages - from Afrikaans to Yoruba, here's how we say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year around the world.
NORAD Santa Tracking - The North American Air Defense Command will be tracking Santa's flight on Christmas Eve. Click on the flag appropriate to your language.
I Want a Baby Elephant for Christmas - I'll bet if you sing along to these lyrics you'll get an idea for last minute Christmas gifts!
Copyright 1998 - 2017 by John E. Shepler. Contact me at: John (at) JohnShepler.com
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First Published: December 23, 1998 as part of A Positive Light