Reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, looks like a moose, only smaller. They live in circumpolar regions in Northern Europe, North Siberia and in Alaska, where they are known as caribou. Its hair is thick, coarse like awns and colored brownish gray like rye flour. Reindeers eat mostly reindeer moss, which is a type of lichen. Both male and female reindeer have large antlers, which fall off and grow back again each year. Female reindeer use their antlers to defend their young.
If you'd take a reindeer's brain and put it into a blender, you'd get so little liquid it'd go down with one sip. But whereas it's a sip of liquid, it's an ocean of stupidity. A reindeer's appearance and behavior is always like someone had just hit it in the head with a hammer.
See, unlike moose, reindeer like to sit on the road. It's a clearing, so mosquitos and such don't bother. And there's really no incentive to move anywhere at all. A moose has some self-preservation instinct so that if a large, noisy, shining beast approaches them, they run away. Whereas, the reindeer thinks that the best direction to run to is along the road - it's a clearing and no trees get in the way. This is analogous to running along the tracks to escape a train. Adding to that, as with every living thing in the north, they like to conserve energy by not hurrying too much. They behave like they own the road.
So, while they sure are all Santa Clausy, they are also animals that PISS OFF any motorist on the road. If I was a vegetarian because of animal rights, I'd still eat reindeer, because that thing is not an animal, but a walking vegetable.
Around here, the Sámi, a people with incredible patience and also some reindeer character in themselves, husband this "half-tamed" animal. (The Sami have taken that trade relatively recently, and only 10% of Sámi are in the reindeer business, but that's what they're famous for.) The reindeer live (and eat) in their natural environment, but they aren't afraid of humans, which is unlike all other wild animals. On the other hand, they are not tame or fed with artificial food, like cows and pigs, so they are "half-tame". Reindeer husbandry is the traditional occupation of the Sámi, Nenets and other peoples living in the circumpolar taiga. (There's a story (I heard) that "old jacks" of the north become reindeers when they die.)
More discussion on this is found in the node Why do reindeer cross the road before a car passes them? The joke, obviously, is that a reindeer doesn't cross the road.
Reindeer meat is fine game. Its distinctive feature is its dark color. Looking at a reindeer hanging in a hook in a slaughterhouse, you'd think that the meat was smoked, when it is fresh. Its natural color is actually way darker than smoked beef or even darker than mettwurst. The cool thing about reindeer meat is that it's mostly protein. It contains only 4% fat! Compared to cow, that's amazing, because a typical mettwurst sausage made from cows is at 32% of fat. As smoked cuts, the taste is about the same or better, except that the greasy, smelly animal fat found in beef and pork is missing. Reindeer meat sometimes contains the same gristle as beef, unlike fine red deer cuts, but that problem is solved by swallowing it down.
Reindeer is eaten as cold-smoked cuts, as an additive in sausage, or as a stew, best eaten with some mashed potatoes (interesting node under reindeer hash). It's also available dried (says montecarlo). Its taste is very much like beef, but lacking from it are the fatty taste and liver-like smell of beef. It's the "meat of eating meat". Like other meat from game, it is tender. Actually, when a stew is made, it crumbles, and produces delicious fatty gravy.
With all this goodness, one would expect there would be some downside. And there is: price. Reindeer, like any other game, is very expensive. At the local store, a 100-gram pack of cold-smoked cuts costs an amazing 43.50 €/kg. Smoked beef sausage, mettwurst, costs only 8.36 €/kg. That puts the price of reindeer meat at an incredible five and a half (5.5) times that of beef. Another downside with reindeer is that they eat lichen, which is a known "pollution sponge". Therefore, for example, in the wake of the Chernobyl accident, the reindeer meat produced in Sweden in 1986 was decreed unfit for human consumption when the radioactive cloud had drifted to the reindeers' feeding grounds after the 1986 accident.
Here is recipe from the reindeer husbandry association.
The preceding day, salt down the reindeer with sprayed brine. Fix the reindeer to the skewer. Barbecue with glowing embers, keeping it about 1 m from the embers. Spread the mustard mixed with oil on the meat using a brush. When the surface is roasted, pour the bouillon and red wine on it. It will cook for 12 hours. Cut and eat the reindeer with the guests.
Be careful not to scorch the surface. Spreading the wine and bouillon is critical to prevent this. It's a good idea to keep a sprayer of water handy to prevent the embers from glowing too hot.
The recipe is from here: http://www.paliskunnat.fi/pororeseptit/Kes%C3%A4grilliin/kokonaisena%20paahdettu%20poro.htm
Ack's for scrutiny: Cletus the Foetus, Gorgonzola.
By the way: around here, the reindeers of the Yule Goat don't fly. The reason is obvious: they're real.