I'm not a Grinch. Really. I'm not. I love Christmas, both for its religious significance and its pervasive cultural presence. Lights, decorations and goodies. What's not to love?
But I do have a few quibbles. I don't like to hear Christmas carols in October, and I've made my position clear that Thanksgiving should not be observed amid Santas, elves on or off the shelf, angels or creches.
And I don't like Rudolph. Does that make me a bad person? Sorry. Rudolph is an upstart, and he has shoved that red nose right to the center of the celebration. Rudolph first appeared in 1939—the same year Hitler invaded Poland. Coincidence?
Unlike the Fuhrer, who blew across Europe with the speed of lightning to achieve his dream of world domination, Rudolph held back, planning and plotting, no doubt. Which one is the genius now?
Maybe the canny reindeer just felt the need to wait for the World War to blow over before implementing his own blitzkrieg. His beginnings were humble, first showing up in a promotion for the department store Montgomery Ward. Yes, Virginia, Rudolph started his career as a shill for a retailer. His creator retrieved the copyright for the reindeer's hard-luck tale and published a children's book in 1947.
Then came the master stroke—lyrics and a tune were written promoting Rudolph. Cowboy songster Gene Autry recorded it, and the song was the smash hit of 1949 (the same year Mao took control of China. Coincidence?). That cheesy song is second only to White Christmas in the holiday hit parade.
Rudolph is definitely a latecomer to the holiday lore. Santa Claus was practically invented by Clement Clark Moore in the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, published in 1823. I'm sure visions of sugar plums danced in my head when I was a child, even though then and now, I wouldn't know a sugar plum if I choked on one.
Mr. Moore is the undisputed expert on the jolly old elf. And how many reindeer does he say pulls the airborne sleigh? Eight! Eight, tiny reindeer. That's it. Yet every present-day depiction of Santa's flight includes that mid-20th century interloper. Donder, Blitzen and the gang have been reduced to also-rans.
Rudolph has achieved his dream of Christmas domination. For now. But what goes around, comes around. Someday there may be a Hubert, the blue-eyed reindeer, with a feel-good story and a knack for promotion, who will kick Rudy right out of the harness.
Reindeer games. What's not to love?