It’s a tradition that has no defined beginning; leaving milk and cookies out for Santa Claus. Each Christmas Eve, children and parents leave something out for the jolly old man before they turn in for the night. But why they do it and when it started is a lot harder to figure out than what is in the presents under the Christmas tree.
The history of leaving food out could be linked to Saint Nicholas’ actual life. He spent much of it helping those in need, especially children. It was after his death that celebrations and remembrances of him on December 6th had people leaving food out on the eve of his death, December 5th, for others to enjoy.
Of course there are stories that the real practice started with Norse mythology where people would leave out hay and oats for Sleipner, the eight legged horse who hopefully would come around and stop by their place during Yule hunting ventures.
Some parts of history suggest that leaving Santa cookies and milk really started during the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Naughty children thought they could bribe Santa with treats in hopes of him leaving them a toy or something else. Parents from the Depression period used the act as a teaching tool telling their youngsters that it was good idea to share with those less fortunate which obviously was the underlining concept that St. Nicholas practiced throughout his life.
So while no starting date can be determined for when cookies and milk appeared on Santa’s Christmas Eve visit, it’s a practice that has been ongoing for years and will probably continue till the end of time. After all, there are other Christmas traditions that are celebrated around the world, but perhaps none more mysterious than the simple act of leaving out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk to be eaten by a jolly old fat man.