Tuesday Trivia: Reindeer (or caribou in the wilds of North America).

J. H. Osborne • Nov 13, 2018 at 4:46 PM

KINGSPORT — When Santa arrives in downtown Kingsport this Saturday, he'll come by rail on his own train — not by reindeer-powered sleigh.

But there will be live reindeer waiting for him at Santa's Depot, presented by the Kingsport Chamber, Appalachian Power and CSX. Santa’s Depot is a free event from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday and is in its second year. It's held in Centennial Park.

Children will receive an official “Santa’s Depot” activity passport at one of two welcome tents when they arrive at the event. Sponsored booths include activities such as writing cards for soldiers deployed abroad, cookie decorating, making magical reindeer food and more.

Inflatables, a kid’s-size train ride and holiday airbrush tattoos will be on-site and complimentary to children. Attendees will also have the opportunity to experience the magic of live reindeer, thanks to community partner Domtar.

“Last year, the live reindeer were a crowd favorite, and we are happy to have them return to Kingsport again this year,” said Robin Cleary, Santa’s Depot co-coordinator.

About reindeer

• Common Name: caribou in North America, reindeer elsewhere.

• Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus.

• Type: Mammals.

• Diet: Herbivores.

• A group is called a herd.

• Average life span in the wild: 15 years.

• Height: 4 to 5 feet at the shoulder.

• Weight: 240 to 700 lbs.

• They live in northern regions of North America, Europe, Asia, and Greenland.

• As summer approaches, herds head north in one of the world's great large-animal migrations. They may travel more than 600 miles along well-trod annual routes. They spend the summer feeding on the abundant grasses and plants of the tundra. In these rich grounds, an adult caribou can eat 12 pounds of food each day.

• When the first snows fall each year, the herds head south and spend the winter in more sheltered areas feeding on lichens.

• Reindeer are the only deer in which male and females both have antlers — though only some females have them.

Names of Santa's reindeer

The poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," first published in 1823 and more commonly known as "T'was the Night Before Christmas," quotes Santa calling out eight reindeer names: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (Blixen).

About Rudolph

"The most famous reindeer of all" was first introduced to the American public in December 1939. The story's author, Robert May, originally wrote for his daughter and considered Romeo, Rodney and Reginald before settling on Rudolph for the title character's name.

May, a public relations copyeditor for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department store, used the story as an advertising promotion, creating a book illustrated by Canadian-born Denver Gillen, a young commercial artist who also worked for Montgomery Ward, and would go on to become the chief illustrator for Reader's Digest.

The book was handed out free only to children who visited the department store. That first year, the book's distribution exceeded two million copies.

The song

In 1949, the story was adapted to song by Johnny Marks, a well-known composer and May's brother-in-law.

Over the years, it has been recorded by many musicians, including Bing Crosby, Dolly Parton, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, the Jackson 5, and rapper DMX. But the most popular version was the one released by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, in 1949. The catchy tune was an instant hit with the public and some 1.75 million copies were sold the first year.

Sources: National Geographic; The Smithsonian Institution (Melodie Sweeney, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Turns 75” in the Smithsonian’s blog “O Say Can You See? Stories from the National Museum of American History”); The Kingsport Chamber.

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