Everybody knows Clement Moore’s famous 1823 poem, The Night Before Christmas. Most of our traditions about Santa Claus are based on it. So I was kind of flummoxed to learn that Donner and Blitzen the reindeer were originally named Dunder and Blixem.

According to Snopes and Wikipedia, the poem originally read:

Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away! dash away! dash away all!

That’s right. The Christmas reindeer you know as Donner and Blitzen were originally given the Dutch “Dunder” (as in Dunder Mifflin) and “Blixem” — names that translate as “Thunder” and “Lightning” (though the Dutch spelling of the latter would actually be “Bliksem”). From there, historical accounts tend to diverge.

But apparently, the two reindeer got updated names from an editor named Edmund Stedman when he published the poem in An American Anthology: 1787-1900. Instead of sticking with the Dutch names, he made them German. Dunder was changed to “Donder,” which eventually became “Donner,” largely due to its alteration in Gene Autry’s 1949 mega-hit song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Blixem was changed to “Blitzen.”

All these years of hearing that poem and singing “Rudolph”… and I had no idea. Did you?

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