On the night before Christmas, all across the world, children lay out something special for Santa to eat. Some say that this idea comes from a pre-Christian tradition because Pagans left food for their ancestors, while others claim that this practice stems from Norwegian children leaving food and hay for Odin and his eight-legged horse, Sleipner. Either way, for centuries, children have been leaving out food for Santa and his reindeer but each country's children honors Father Christmas in their own way.
Milk and Cookies (United States)
Children in the United States leave milk and cookies for Santa Claus. While children traditionally left out gingerbread cookies, now it is more common to see children leaving chocolate chip cookies.
Check out this delicious recipe for gingerbread cookies and this one for chocolate chip cookies.
Sherry and Mince Pie (United Kingdom)
In the United Kingdom and Australia, children leave out mince pie and sherry for Father Christmas. Mince pie is a fruit-based pie, where small chunks of dried fruit are cooked in a beef suet, and then added to the pie crust. This pie has been traditionally served during Christmas time for centuries, and there are recipes dating to the 16th century for it. While some children leave milk for Santa Claus, it is more common to leave sherry, to help keep him warm as he races across the world.
Check out this recipe for mince pie here.
Guinness and Mince Pie (Ireland)
The Irish, too, leave out mince pies, but, in true Irish style, they serve up a pint of Guinness for jolly old Saint Nick. After a sustaining drink, he can be off to the rest of the world.
Personalized Letters (Germany)
In Germany, Santa takes a little break from the all-night gorging by reading personalized letters left for him. In the morning, children wake to find their letters gone and presents left instead.
Risengrod Rice Pudding (Denmark)
In Denmark, children leave out a bowl of risengrod, a special rice pudding made on Christmas Eve. The Danes believe that Nisser and Tomte, two types of magical elves, will cause mischief if the bowl of risengrod is missing.
Carrots and Biscuits in Shoes (France)
In France, children leave carrots for the reindeer and biscuits for Pere Noel in their shoes. The carrots and biscuits disappear and, in the morning, Pere Noel leaves them candy, cookies, and other small treats!
Hay and Water (Argentina)
In Argentina, children don't leave anything out for Santa Claus. However, they leave hay and water for his reindeer by the front door.
Pan de Pascua (Chile)
Viejo Pascuero (or Old Man Christmas) gets a special treat in Chile where families make him a pan de pascua, a type of fruitcake. This spongy, rich spice cake is flavored with rum and filled with dried fruits and nuts.
Find a recipe for pan de pascua here.