Why Do People Leave Cookies and Milk for Santa on Christmas Eve?

Today, kids leave cookies and milk for Santa, and may occasionally leave a carrot for his reindeer. If there are just crumbs on the plate and an empty glass in the morning, this is a clear sign that the jolly old man enjoyed the treat. While leaving out cookies and milk for Santa has become a well-established Christmas routine, many people do not know how it started. Here are some theories to explain the origins of the tradition.

Fiberglass chocolate statue
FDF-095 Chocolate Statue

dessert sculpture

One story suggests that the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Father Christmas has a connection to Saint Nicholas. It is said that when he was alive, Saint Nicholas spent most of his time helping people in need, especially children. When he “died,” December 6th was chosen as the day to celebrate and remember him. On December 5th, which is the eve of his “death,” people would leave out food for others to enjoy. Children who left food and drinks for the saint and his attendants would have their offerings exchanged for gifts during the night.

Life size Santa Claus Statue
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Another story shows that leaving cookies and milk for Santa is linked to the history of the Christmas tree. Long ago, people in Germany decorated what they called a paradise tree. The German tradition involved the use of wafers, apples, and cookies to decorate the tree. Throughout this period, Santa would enjoy the snacks that were used as decorations. Although the decorations used on a Christmas tree have changed over time, the practice of leaving a treat for the jolly old man stayed.

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  In America, some people say that the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa started in the 1920s and 1930s. Naughty children thought they could bribe Santa with the treats in order to get toys and gifts from him. The nice kids, on the other hand, saw this as a way to thank him for the hard work he does on Christmas Eve. Parents also took the chance to encourage their kids to share with others by leaving snacks for Santa Claus as well as treats for his reindeer.

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  There are many tales that try to explain how this tradition started. It is not possible to know which one is true or to say when cookies and milk became part of Santa’s Christmas Eve visit. However, it is important to keep the tradition going. This helps to bring the Christmas mood and allows kids to create memories they will treasure for the rest of their lives.