Dad: Those must have been some cookies you left Santa.
Daughter: I didn't leave him cookies. I left him cheese.
Characters leaving out treats for Santa Claus
on Christmas Eve. This is usually done as a test to see whether he exists, or as a act of good will. The food is usually milk and cookies in America or sherry (or a nice big tumbler of Scotch in Scotland) and a mince pie in Britain, but it may be something different for one reason or another. Sometimes there will also be food (typically carrots) for the reindeer.
The tradition is related to the Older Than Dirt
northern European tradition of leaving a food sacrifice for various protective spirits, most importantly the house gnome. House gnomes were later conflated with Saint Nicholas to become the modern day Santa Claus.
- This Betty Crocker commercial shows a kid's father eating some sugar cookies, when the kid shows up and tells Dad they were for Santa, angry and paranoid that he won't come as a result. They both then fix up a new batch, and at the end, the kid warns him that they're for Santa and that Dad shouldn't touch them.
- Best Buy had an obnoxious series of commercials for Christmas 2011, wherein Santa showed up to leave presents and found the woman of the house sitting there eating his cookies and drinking his milk. Santa holds a bottle of cologne. "Papa don't want no cologne," says the woman, taking a bite of his cookie, and she points to the flatscreen TV playing some manner of football game in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.
- Comcast also had a commercial for Christmas 2011, wherein an elf and Santa were helping set up new electronics gear. And Santa refused to share his cookies with the elf.
- In this "Got Milk?" ad, Santa takes back all of the Christmas presents and the tree because the family is out of milk to go with the brownies left out for him.
- In this M&M's ad, Red and Yellow are putting out M&M's for Santa and meet him in the flesh.
- One commercial had a family come downstairs on Christmas morning to behold the entire house filled wall to wall with amazing toys and gifts, far and beyond the usual fare. When the dad asks what they left for Santa, the kids replied "Cheese". The commercial ends with the tag line, "Behold the power of cheese."
- In this 1987 commercial, Who's that kid with the Oreo cookie? Who else?
- Subverted in old locally-produced Louisiana ad for Zapp's potato chips that had Santa asking the boys and girls to hold off on the milk and cookies and leave out 7up and a bag of Zapp's instead. That's just how Santa rolls down on the bayou.
- An old Alka-Seltzer commercial shows Santa coming home after his rounds with bad indigestion after eating all the treats left out for him; he feels better after taking Alka-Seltzer.
- In 2013 there was an ad in which a guy leaves a bottle of Aleve pain killer for Santa.
- The Raymond Briggs Father Christmas book has Father Christmas getting rather tipsy on all the sherry that the children leave out for him (in Britain, it's traditional to give Santa a mince pie and a sherry to keep him going, and a carrot for his reindeer).
- The Santa Clause: Early in his tenure as Santa, when he's still refusing to get into the spirit of it, Scott doesn't touch the food. When a small child catches him not drinking the milk she's left out, he tells her it's because he's lactose intolerant. This becomes a Brick Joke when he returns to the house at the end of the film, and finds that she's remembered and left him a glass of soy milk instead.
- On the Discworld, children leave out a pork pie and a glass of sherry for the Hogfather, and a turnip for the hogs that pull his sleigh. In Hogfather, when Death is subbing in, he can't eat or drink so his human sidekick Albert deals with the pies and sherry for him (particularly enthusiastically when it comes to the sherry).
- Sugar Ray Dodge's Son Of Santa: Inverted. Dale leaves cookies for Jack at his house.
- Referenced in "'Til Santa's Gone (I Just Can't Wait)" by Clint Black. (The song was once sub-titled "Milk and Cookies".)
- In David Sedaris's "Santaland Diaries", he describes how he, as a Macy's elf, had to go through a routine with a Mall Santa where he would find out what kind of cookie each kid was going to leave out and then claim it was Santa's favorite.
This afternoon Santa got an Asian child who wasn't familiar with the idea of leaving cookies. Santa asked what she was going to leave him to eat, and she got a puzzled look on her face. He said, "Something round to eat?" and she said, "A potato?"
- Since The Sims games don't keep track of dates past the day of the week (and the first game not even that), the only conditions for invoking a visit from Santa are placing appropriate furniture items, including a nice plate of cookies.
- In Prep and Landing, one of the duties of the eponymous team is to check the milk and cookies to see whether they're up to standards. When Wayne is passed for a promotion, he takes it out on a Santa cookie and tries to bite its head off (although it's a little tough for him).
- In Arthur's Perfect Christmas, this was something Arthur's family did, but D.W. took things one step further by having them leave out a pail of water for the reindeer.
- Peppa Pig: In "Santa's Grotto", Grandpa Pig leaves Santa a mince pie and an unspecified drink. Given British tradition, it was probably sherry. A carrot is also left for Santa's reindeer.
- In the VeggieTales episode The Toy that Saved Christmas, the "Silly Songs with Larry" segment has Larry leaving cookies out for Santa...and Santa gets none of them. Larry ends up giving one of them to a robber, another to a Viking, and the I.R.S. takes the last one.
- In the Jimmy Neutron Christmas special, Carl left a plate of cheese nips for Santa the year before, and one saliva-covered cheese nip was all that was left. Jimmy, who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, tells Carl that his Parents could have eaten the cheese nips, but Carl tells him that his parents are on a high-fiber low-cheese nip diet. When Jimmy's scanner picks up a holiday-themed pattern, this pattern confirms Carl to be right.
- The As Told by Ginger "An Even Steven Holiday Special" has Hoodsey mentioning that he one time left Santa a box of Nachos Supreme and he "stunk up the bathroom on the way out".
- Many kids do this on Christmas Eve to see whether Santa exists. So the kid will still believe in him, the parents will then either eat the food or throw it away.
- Many kids who have already stopped believing leave it out anyway to give their parents a snack.
- On Latin America, children leave grass on January 6 for The Three Wise Men to give to their mounts (horses or camels, depending on the country).
- In Australia, the milk is replaced with beer.
- While not Santa Claus, there is a tradition in China of leaving sweets for the Kitchen God, who makes rounds before Chinese New Year and reports to the Jade Emperor on good families/children.