Christmas Tradition Origins: Milk and Cookies

Cookie and chocolate boxes on display as part of the Museum's 2020 Christmas display.

Cookie and chocolate boxes on display as part of the Museum's 2020 Christmas display.

In ancient Norse traditions, children left out food for Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipner, hoping Odin would stop and leave them gifts.

In North America, the tradition of leaving milk and cookies for Santa began in the 1930s. During the Great Depression, many people didn’t have a lot of money. Leaving something for Santa was a way of teaching children kindness and gratitude.

What Children Leave Out Around the World:

Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands: Hay for Santa’s horses, left out in shoes. Little gifts are then placed in the shoes.

Britain, Australia: Sherry and mince pies for Father Christmas.

Sweden: Rice Porridge.

Ireland: Guinness.

France: Glass  of wine, hay/ carrots for Pere Noel’s donkey, Gui.

Germany: Letters thanking Christkind for bringing them gifts. Sometimes Christkind leaves letters for the children.