December 24, 2018 1:09 pm
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All the reindeer may have laughed and called Rudolph names but what about the strange names of Donner and Blitzen?

Donner and Blitzen, together with Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet and, Cupid, were all named by American Clement Clarke Moore in his 1823 poem known as ‘The night before Christmas’. 
And the poet originally gave Donner and Blitzen their Dutch equivalent monikers of Dunder and Blixem which were a popular form of mild swearing in 18th and 19th century New York — equivalent to ‘gosh darn!’. 
Why Dutch? Well, the poem was set in New York and until 1664, New York had been a Dutch settlement called New Amsterdam and the language was still widely spoken. 
Moore later changed the names to the current German ones — Donner and Blitzen — possibly because they rhymed better with Comet and Vixen.

But the big question which has perplexed many English-speakers for generations is — what do they mean?

Wisely, the poet named two of Santa’s reindeer after the fastest, most powerful things to flash across the night sky; Donner/Dunder means thunder and Blitzen/Blixem means lightning.

The name Rudolph was only added to the tale in 1939, after a Chicago department store gave away a storybook featuring the now famous reindeer.

Word has it, he was almost named Reginald but it sounded too British!

Head over to to start learning FrenchGerman or Dutch (or all three!) from as little as £1 a month.

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