Friday, 23 December 2011

Santa Claus and reindeer, Alaska, 1893

As it's the last day before the Christmas break, I've been poking around for something Christmassy to share from one of our resources, and have come across this delightful account of playing Santa Claus with real reindeer to Eskimo children in Alaska in 1893.

I told the children about Santa Claus, and for them to tie their fur stockings up near their beds, as he was coming to visit them for the first time, and would remember every child.... It occurred to me that perhaps this was the first time in the history of civilization that a live Santa Claus made his midnight visit upon an errand of mercy with a team of reindeer.

My favourite part though, I think, is the beautifully evocative description of the night itself:

While in my stooping position at the first house, I suddenly lifted my eyes to the north and beheld the most gorgeous aurora I witnessed at any time during the winter. The night was a glorious one, cold and crisp, with the stars shining in lustrous splendor from the pale blue canopy above, and not a breath of air was stirring. Across the whole northern horizon floods of wavy light surged and swept from east to west, sending further up into the heavens streams of vapory light dancing up and down in graceful shadows, that easily led me to imagine they were caused by invisible spirits.

If that doesn't make you feel all warm and festive, nothing will! Click on the images below to read the full extract from the report, which is contained in the US Congressional Serial Set (available via OxLIP+ for Oxford users).

Report on introduction of domesticated reindeer into Alaska. with maps and illustrations, by Sheldon Jackson, general agent of education in Alaska. 1894, S.Exec.Doc. 70 (53rd Congress, 2nd Session), contained in the US Congressional Serial Set.

I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing Christmas and New Year!