With the holiday season approaching, my mind goes back to a Christmas Eve when my family was driving home from Athens County on a cold, wintry night after visiting my grandparents, as was the tradition for us each year on Christmas Eve. Traveling south on State Route 7, as we approached Cheshire, my dad pointed to a red light in the sky and said, “Do you see that red light in the sky? That’s Rudolph, guiding Santa’s sleigh.” In my five (soon-to-be-six) year old mind, I was in awe to see Rudolph in action on Christmas Eve. Of course, I learned a few short years later that the “red light” was actually the light on the smoke stack at the Gavin Power Plant, but to me, that light will always be Rudolph’s shiny, red nose guiding Santa’s sleigh on the most important night of a child’s year.
Reflecting on memories such as this, no matter how simple, is what makes the holiday season so special. I now enjoy making memories with my son that I hope he will cherish as he grows into adulthood. One such memory was our visit years ago to Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, with the zoo grounds being illuminated with millions of beautiful holiday lights. A memorable highlight of that special evening was having the opportunity to see several live reindeer at the zoo, as it is certainly not an everyday occurrence to see these unique, stocky animals.
According to online information from the San Diego Zoo, reindeer and caribou are classified as the same genus and species, Rangifer tarandus. In Europe, they are called reindeer. In North America, the name reindeer is used when referring to Eurasian populations and the name caribou to refer to wild populations in North America. We also use reindeer to refer to domesticated individuals, even those in North America. Antlers are the reindeer’s most memorable characteristic. In comparison to body size, reindeer have the largest and heaviest antlers of all living deer species. A male’s antlers can measure up to 51 inches (130 centimeters) long, and a female’s antlers can reach 20 inches (50 centimeters).
As we approach the holiday season, images of reindeer guiding Santa’s sleigh come to mind. According to author Teresa Chris in her work “The Story of Santa Claus,” the idea of Santa flying in a sleigh was first described by Washington Irving. She notes that for the sleigh “to be pulled by reindeer gave St. Nick an exotic link with the far north – a land of cold and snow where few, if any, people traveled and was hence mysterious and remote.” The author goes on to note that reindeer were not first told of by Irving, but rather in a publication called “The Children’s Friend,” in which the writer described in 1821, “Old Sante Claus with much delight, his reindeer drives this frosty night.”
Notably, it was American scholar Clement C. Moore who is credited with writing “A Visit from St. Nicholas” or “The Night Before Christmas,” in which he who told of eight reindeer and gave them their respective names.
For those who enjoy reading about reindeer, readers may be interested in author Robert Sullivan’s “Flight of the Reindeer: The True Story of Santa Claus and His Christmas Mission,” in which the author shares about his search for the true Santa Claus, discusses the North Pole, and explores the mystery and wonder of the miracle of reindeer flight. Bossard Library has a wide array of holiday books, DVDs, and music CDs for you and your family to enjoy this holiday season.
Our local Gallipolis in Lights event certainly stirs the holiday spirit in each of us. I am very proud to live in a community that boasts such a magnificent holiday light display in the beautiful Gallipolis City Park. On behalf of Bossard Memorial Library, I am excited to share that the Library will be providing visitors an opportunity to see live reindeer in the Gallipolis City Park from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 27 during the official tree lighting and opening ceremonies of Gallipolis in Lights 2019. These reindeer will be “flying in” from Pine Acres Reindeer Farm in LaRue, Ohio. While no petting of reindeer will be permitted, visitors will be able to get within two feet of the reindeer to take pictures, if desired. Plan now to join the community in celebrating this year’s Gallipolis in Lights, an event which, just like Rudolph in the classic holiday tune, is sure to “go down in history.”
Debbie Saunders is the director of the Bossard Memorial Library in Gallipolis.