R is for Reindeer (and Rovaniemi)

Tuesday 20 December 2011

How cool does this look? I mean, who wouldn't want to be pulled along, on skis, over snow by a galloping reindeer?

Having missed out on the opportunity to become a cross-country reindeer racer when I was young, I have instead, many years later, found myself writing about the reindeer (or rangifer tarandus for the classically inclined) in What is Myrrh Anyway? (and Christmas Miscellany).

For example, did you know that a reindeer calf can outrun a man at only one day old, or that the Finns once measured distance in terms of how far a reindeer could run without having to stop for a pee?
The reindeer is the only deer that can be domesticated, and was the first hoofed animal to be domesticated. It provides the nomadic tribes who live within the Arctic Circle (such as the Lapps) with milk, cheese, meat, fat, clothing, footwear, tools (made from the antlers and bones), highly durable bindings (made from the animal’s sinews) and a means of transport.

In Iceland, reindeer meat (or hreindýr) is becoming an increasingly popular Christmas dinner choice, while the Lapp people of Scandinavia believe that taking powdered reindeer antlers increases virility. Reindeer themselves are vegetarians by choice but when when the supply of greenery runs out they will eat anything, and everything, from eggs and shed antlers, to placenta and even rodents!

Did you know...?
Santa Claus - whose association with reindeer cannot go unremarked - has his official post office in Rovaniemi, the capital of the Province of Lapland in northern Finland. The jolly old elf receives somewhere in the region of 600,000 letters each year!

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You will find many other such festive facts in my book What is Myrrh Anyway?- and its American counterpart Christmas Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.


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