Here in North America, we’re all familiar with white-tailed deer, and we can easily distinguish between a male and a female: the buck has antlers and the doe does not.
But a lesser-known member of the deer family, the caribou, is harder to figure. BOTH sexes grow antlers, but they shed them at slightly different times. The males lose their antlers in the early winter, by mid-December, while the females keep theirs until spring. This is pretty unique; only one other member of the deer family shares this trait. It’s a cousin of the caribou that lives mostly in the northern stretches of Eurasia, stands about three and a half feet tall, weighs 300 pounds, and runs about 15 miles an hour. Most notably, nine of them have been known to fly.
Let’s put all that together and state it more plainly: if you see a reindeer on your roof this Sunday night, and it has antlers on its head…it’s a girl.
Yup, Santa’s got an all-doe team working for him! Now, you could have expected Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen to be ladies, but Comet, Cupid, Donner (which means “Thunder” in German), and Blitzen (“Lighting”)? Those sound like pretty macho names for she-deer.
Some cynics might argue that Santa’s team might, in fact, be younger bull reindeer; they tend to keep their antlers later into the winter, sometimes as late as December 24. However, our knowledge of Santa’s reindeer goes back a long way; they must be at least 100 years old by now. Another possibility is that, in some parts of the world, folks don’t use reindeer bulls to pull their sleds, they use steers. And steers keep their antlers similar to does. But in order to create a team of reindeer steers, Santa would have to…oh, no, he wouldn’t!
Finally, we need to address the case of Rudolph. There’s no doubt that the other reindeer, “used to laugh and call HIM names.” And in the famous animated version, he ends up married to Clarice and having kids of his own. So you gotta conclude he’s a guy. On the other hand, he has a luminescent nose – and hangs out with a dentist, a prospector, and the Abominable Snowman – so maybe the normal rules don’t apply to him.
To that point, since all of Santa’s reindeer are magical, perhaps the “normal” rules don’t apply to them either.
Maybe therein lies the moral. It’s all part of the allegory. Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether you’re a buck or a doe. Perhaps the message is that no matter who we are or appear to be, at the holidays, we are all equally capable of creating our share of magic.
And to that point, this season I humbly ask you to remember the very last message from the big elf himself, ‘ere he drove out of sight: “Happy Christmas to ALL, and to ALL a good night.”