Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen. The lineup sounds exotic and vaguely erotic, until you reach the ninth of Santa's reindeer, the most famous and prosaically...

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Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen. The lineup sounds exotic and vaguely erotic, until you reach the ninth of Santa’s reindeer, the most famous and prosaically named Rudolph. They are Santa’s engine, his flying machine, without which he’d be unable to visit the children of the world.

Reindeer will be celebrated from now until Dec. 23 at the annual Reindeer Festival at the Cougar Mountain Zoo in Issaquah. Visitors can meet Santa’s reindeer and sit in Santa’s sleigh.

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Although the origins of the notion of Santa’s team of reindeer are obscure, a promising theory comes from the Web site www.northpolesantaclaus.com.

An unsigned author says Santa Claus, as we know him today, derived from multiple European incarnations such as St. Nicholas and came from American author Washington Irving, who had Santa riding above the trees in a horse-drawn carriage.



Festival preview



Issaquah Reindeer Festival, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily through Dec. 23, Cougar Mountain Zoo, 19525 S.E. 54th St., Issaquah; $9.50 adults, $8 seniors, $6.50 kids (425-392-6278 or www.cougarmountainzoo.org).

Then, in 1822, Clement Clarke Moore published “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which you know as “The Night Before Christmas.” According to the Web site, he “substituted eight reindeer and a sleigh for Irving’s horse and wagon.”

The outcast Rudolph would come later, in 1939, when Montgomery Ward department store copywriter Robert May created the story about the reindeer for a book given to Christmas customers.

Issaquah Reindeer Festival visitors can feed reindeer on the way to Santa’s house, write a letter to Santa and put it in his personal mailbox, create a holiday art project and meet Santa every day from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Here are some of the performances and other activities at Mountain Lion Plaza during the Issaquah Reindeer Festival. Call for details:

• 2 and 3 p.m. tomorrow: Our Savior Lutheran Church of Everett Hand Bell Choir performs.

• 3-4 p.m. tomorrow: Spirit of Sound Singers entertain a cappella.

• 11:30 a.m. Sunday: Dickens Carolers perform.

• Noon Wednesday: Cougar Mountain Academy Choir performs.

• 11 a.m. Dec. 18: Eastlake High School Bell Choir performs. 4-6 p.m.: Campfire Choir performs.

• 11:30 a.m. Dec. 19: Dickens Carolers perform.

• Dec. 20: U.S. Marine Corps picks up Toys for Tots donations.

J. Patrick Coolican: 206-464-3315 or jcoolican@seattletimes.com