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'Twas the night before Christmas

"A Visit from St. Nicholas" is the actual name of the 1823 poem popularly known as "The Night Before Christmas".

Do you remember the reindeer names as Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen? If so, you might be experiencing the Mandela Effect, because Donner is in fact Donder and Blitzen is Blixem.

The poem first appeared in New York's Troy Sentinel newspaper on the 23rd of December 1823. Controversy surrounds even the author of the poem, which just serves to add to this mystery. It is acknowledged as being the origins of the modern day Santa story, although vastly different versions of a mystical being visiting in mid-winter had been around for thousands of years at least.

The names for Donder and Blixem are Dutch for "thunder" and "lightning" - could they just have been those all along and changed over the years by English speakers?

Just how many were there?

There's something which needs to be settled from the start - how many were there? So far there are reports of 8, 9, 10 and 12, with the most popular being 9. Another thing which surprises many people is that on observation alone, they all ,ust be female. That's because males lose their antlers before Christmas, unless they have had a certain operation which most definitely is not for the ears of children.

The original poem only names 8 reindeer, with no mention of Rudolph. He was added a little over a century after the 1823 poem, when he first appeared in the 1939 story "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". So now there were 9, and his famous song was just about to hit the world in 1949 when it became a Christmas number one in the US.

The full poem

Here is the original in it's entirety

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

-- CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE