Sleighs are intertwined with Christmas traditions and have been for ages. Our favorite Christmas songs include the use of sleighs. Jingle Bells romanticizes the one-horse open sleigh, while several songs about Jolly Ol’ St. Nick make mention of Santa’s favored mode of transportation – yep, you guessed it … his sleigh.
Perhaps we love the sleigh for its simplicity. Its design – a platform or box on two runners – is anything but complex. Or maybe we love it because of the feeling of weightlessness we feel when a team of horses or dogs pulls us along at thrilling speeds. Sleighs allow us to enjoy the wonderlands winter creates. They allow us to transport materials or ourselves when the terrain is snow- or ice-covered. And, as previously stated, a sleigh enables Santa to deliver millions of presents to children across the world on Christmas Eve.
Sleighs have been around for centuries. Historically, they have been used heavily in countries such as the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Iceland and the Netherlands. In fact, the Dutch brought sleighs – as well as the word, sleigh – to the U.S. in the 1700s. Some of America’s first European settlers were of Dutch origin, and these trailblazers used sleighs to get around the northern part of the country in the frigid winter months.
Now, after the advent of the train, automobile and airplane, sleighs and their close relatives – carriages – have become novel items that captivate us with their nostalgia. They evoke images of yesteryear, of a simpler time when society was less convoluted. But the popularity of the sleigh, though no longer a major mode of transportation, will never die thanks to its affiliation with Santa Claus.
We decorate our home during the holidays with sleigh replicas. We hang sleigh ornaments on our Christmas trees. We take our children to see Santa Claus in the nearest mall, and often we photograph them in front of his sleigh.
In the northern U.S., in winter, we take an adaptation of the sleigh – called a sled – and go “sledding” or “sleigh riding.” For a child, few things in the winter are more fun than sledding down a large hill with friends or family members.
In short, sleighs are a subtle part of our heritage and our holiday fabric. Without them, there would be no Rudloph, no Dancer or Prancer, nothing to land on rooftops so that Santa can drop down chimneys and fill stockings. Without sleighs, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas!
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