What do you want for Christmas?

Kids tell Santa what they want for Christmas at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory

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Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Trinity Wilson, 4, pets Candy Cane on Saturday at Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, where Santa and his reindeer were on hand for photos. The reindeer will be there today, too.

Oh dear, is that Santa’s reindeer?

Santa and 4-month-old Tempie Shifferly get ready for their close-up.

The rain was light but it was steady and cold; it didn’t seem to faze Candy Cane and Jingle Bell. On any other day, standing out in the rain would be a delightful way to spend their time.

So the adults who dropped by the courtyard at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory to get a glimpse of a couple of Santa’s reindeer and bemoaned their soggy condition didn’t have to worry. They were perfectly happy.

The reindeer were there for the kids, anyway. In clusters of a few at a time, youngsters would exit the steamy conservatory interior and stop by to see real reindeer, pet their wet coats and pose for pictures with the animals.

But some adults are still kids at heart, and plenty of them posed with the animals with big smiles on their faces.

The reindeer might not have been exactly what some youngsters were expecting. They were Icelandic reindeer, the kind that roam North America, just the kind of reindeer Santa would use on his sleigh, said Jurgin Cripe, one of the handlers. Nordic reindeer found in Europe are bigger.

They’re little, one man told a youngster. They have to be small so they can fly.

They’re in training, someone else mentioned at some point.

The reindeer normally grow antlers in the summer and they remain until February or March, Cripe said. But Candy Cane had shed her antlers earlier, and Jingle Bell had lost one of his antlers just last week.

That’s why he stood there with an antler on only one side of his head, his big, beady eye following kids as they walked up beside them and gingerly stroked the animals’ soggy coat.

Not everyone seemed interested in petting the animals. A handful of kids stood back, a little reluctant to approach. But most marched up without much hesitation, getting a close look, most saying nothing at all, before retreating from the cold and returning to the conservatory.

The reindeer have been at the garden on weekends since Thanksgiving. They’ll still be there today.

The animals are owned by Cripe’s mother and live on a farm in North Manchester. The farm has four reindeer, but they have to be kept in separate pens. They tend to fight, Cripe said.