By Elf Ed Zachary
Fact: Santa uses reindeer to deliver the goods.
When we grow up the first reference any of us hear to reindeer is in association with Santa (except for a few kids in Lapland) and so we simply think of them as Santa's kind of animal. Everyone knows about it, and most people accept it without question. Most people.
There is however a contingent of discontented people out there who must know why. Unbelievable as it seems, some people want to know why their particular favorite arctic animal is not represented as a sleigh puller.
So, because I am always eager to resolve misunderstanding, always overjoyed to educate the public at large, and because I am only too willing to quiet the endless inquisition of the curious, here are a few of the many reasons why Santa uses reindeer. (Just in case you're not bright enough to figure this out on your own.)
~ Possible hints to Santa's Beginnings ~
Though nobody knows for sure where or when Santa was born, a lot of people up here think that he's probably from the region of northern Scandinavia called Lapland. The brightly colored, fur lined outfit is one clue. Another is the sort of long, full, white beard, worn in the style of bikers and Laplanders.
Santa's affinity to reindeer is the final argument the Lap origin people use. Laplanders are reindeer herders; there just isn't any other job up there. People up there use reindeer for everything too -- transportation, food, clothing, toys, fuel, (not exactly as firewood, but you can burn reindeer dung, you don't want to, but you can do it) and to make dairy products.
So if that's where he's from, there simply wouldn't be any other animal considered.
~ Other Potential Sleigh Pullers ~
If you consider the other animals that thrive in an arctic environment, you'll quickly realize that reindeer are truly the only choice.
Polar bears: While certainly strong enough to pull hard for many hours, polar bears simply do not have the temperament to be roped together and fly in a straight line. Besides can you imagine the names? Gnasher, Slasher, Ripper, Tearer, Sealbreath… you begin to get the picture? Not exactly jolly is it?
Sled dogs: An intriguing option. After all, dogs were used to pull sleighs in Canada and Alaska in the same way they are used in Lapland. They certainly have the constitution for it.
The problem is that sled dogs tend to be a rowdy bunch, and Santa depends in no small way on stealth. Besides, imagine the problems that would arise whenever he landed at house that already has a dog. Barking, sniffing, and all the other rude dog behavior that happens when dogs meet for the first time. Multiplied that by who knows how many times every Christmas. Not a very pretty picture at all, is it?
Wolves: All the problems of polar bears, plus all the problems of sled dogs.
Seals: Give me a break. We're talking about an animal with flippers here.
Musk ox: These are those large, long haired, short stout legged, buffalo looking animals that you see in shows about Siberia. They look like they could really pull some weight too. But there is a reason they're called MUSK ox. It's the strong, pungent smell that they carry with them everywhere they go. That kind of smell tends to take the merriness out of things.
Penguin: The most common suggestion from Santa's fans. Ignore for a moment that penguin are from the Antarctic, as opposed to the Arctic. Think about how horribly undignified that would be. Santa gets all spiffied up in his bright red outfit. Carefully combs out his beard. Puts on his stylish red stocking hat. Then gets into a sleigh pulled by eight… penguins? Please.
Whales, lemmings, cormorants, salmon, and Alaskan Pipeline workers are all too silly to even consider (though not, evidently, too silly to suggest). Caribou are as close to reindeer as makes no difference.
The nuclear submarines cruising around under the ice cap would, I think, be really cool to have flying through the air, and imagine all the extra storage space for toys and stuff, you almost wouldn't need a sleigh. Santa thinks that's far too militaristic though, and submarines are awfully hard to catch.
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