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The history behind Santa’s sleigh
The history behind Santa’s sleigh

The history behind Santa’s sleigh

Even today, the origin of Santa Claus remains rather vague. There are several versions, but none are official! According to the most probable version, his ancestor is Bishop Nicolas de Myre, who lived between the third and fourth centuries. More known under the name of Saint Nicolas, he is also the boss of children. He is often portrayed distributing sweets or gifts to wise children.

The current image of Santa, in the guise of an old man dressed in red and wearing a white beard, comes from traditions and legends from around the world. The famous reindeer sleigh was probably influenced by northern culture. But how has it become so popular around the world? Let us tell you the story of Santa’s sleigh.

The legend of Saint Nicolas mentions that he travelled on the back of a donkey. It was not until the 19th century that Santa is mentioned using a sled. The first mention of Santa’s sleigh is attributed to the author Clément Clarke Moore, in his poem “The visit of Saint Nicolas” (or “The night before Christmas”). It was published for the first time in 1823 in an American newspaper. The author describes St. Nicholas as a “mischievous” and “plump” elf with red clothes and a long white beard. Called “Santa Claus” in the text, he moves through the air on a sledge pulled by eight reindeers and goes through the chimneys of the houses to distribute the gifts. The text was so successful that this new representation of Saint Nicholas was adopted around the world!
The eight reindeer who pull Santa’s sleigh have kept the names given by the author. We thus find Tornado, Dancer, Fury, Dashing, Comet, Cupid, Lightning and Thunder. A ninth reindeer with a red nose, called Rudolf, appeared in the twentieth century. He’s the one who guides Santa’s sleigh in the night.

While sleds are the most popular means of transport for Santa Claus in the world, some countries are exceptions. According to Dutch tradition, Santa Claus leaves Spain to arrive in the Netherlands in a boat loaded with presents. In Luxembourg, he is always accompanied by Father Fouettard and travels by helicopter or train, and sometimes on the back of a donkey. Other countries have preferred to adapt Santa’s representation to their own culture or climate. This is the case of Australia, where it is said that Santa Claus arrives on a surfboard. On the island of Reunion too, reindeer are not very credible! It is customary to replace them with oxen.

But even in the regions of the world that have adopted the sled, Santa Claus now uses a multitude of different means of transport, especially in advertising! Indeed, as Christmas approaches, some brands do not hesitate to appropriate the character of Santa Claus to promote their products. This is the case of car manufacturers, who take the opportunity to modernize the sleigh of Santa Claus. This year, Dodge chose to offer Santa Claus a brand new red SRT Hellcat Challenger and so does BMW and Mercedes!

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