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Leaving Food For Santa

"The cookies are great, but I prefer HO-HOS!"
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 (most of the country) or a nice big tumbler of Scotch (in Scotland) and a mince pie in Britain (the brand is always your dad's favourite—funny, that), 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.
  • In this commercial, two parents eat some cookies meant for Santa Claus, and they literally have to rush to Walgreen's and back to replace the cookies at the last moment.

Comic Books
  • 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... except he doesn't like soy milk.

  • 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). The story also explains how Santa or his equivalent can consume all the goodies left out for him - symbolically, all pork pies are one pork pie. Except for the one like a turnip.
  • Sugar Ray Dodge's Son Of Santa: Inverted. Dale leaves cookies for Jack at his house.
  • The children's picture book Father Christmas Needs A Wee is about the inevitable side effect of all that liquid.

Live-Action TV
  • Saturday Night Live: "The Night Hanukkah Harry Saved Christmas". Harry is Subbing for Santa and discovers some milk and cookies out.
    What's this? [sniffs milk] I'd better put this in the fridge before it turns.
  • Marshall from How I Met Your Mother talks about leaving lutefisk instead of cookies, "cause that's what Santa needs at 3:00 AM while battling a snowstorm over the Rockies, a sugar crash. Santa needs protein!"
  • In his Christmas Special, Pee-Wee attempted to bribe Santa with a large platter of milk and cookies. Ultimately subverted when Santa revealed that the Christmas list was so all-encompassing that Pee-Wee had to give back all of the presents so that the children of the world could have some!
  • Barney & Friends: Michael and Amy leave milk and cookies for Santa in the Backyard Gang video "Waiting for Santa". It's how they know that they beat him to their house after their North Pole visit.
  • In an episode of Neighbours in which Mrs Mangel is looking after her grandson, Toby, over Christmas, he says that his dad always leaves a "tinny" (can of beer) out for Santa. Mrs Mangel suggests that Santa might want a glass of wine, for a change.

  • Referenced in "'Til Santa's Gone (I Just Can't Wait)" by Clint Black. (The song was once sub-titled "Milk and Cookies".)

Newspaper Comics
  • Garfield used this a few times during its Christmas strips.
    • In one early strip, Jon sets a hamburger and a glass of milk nearby the chimney, saying, "And here's something for jolly old Saint Nick." Garfield then rises from a present under the tree and begins eating it, saying, "Ho Ho Ho."
    • One strip shows Jon about to have some milk and cookies lying out. He then gets caught in a net booby trap, and Garfield comes over and angrily comments, "Hey! You're not Santa!"
    • In another strip, Garfield leaves out a T-bone steak and a pot of coffee for Santa, because "A big fat guy who's driving all night doesn't want milk and cookies."
    • In another strip there was this dialogue between Jon and a very grumpy-looking Garfield:
    Jon: If you look at your gift I'll tell Santa. (Beat Panel) And he already not too happy with you for eating his milk and cookies last year.
    Garfield: You had to bring that up, did you?!
    • In the Christmas Day 2001 strip, Garfield says that Santa is even nicer then he thought, because he left Garfield a cookie.
    • The Christmas-themed book Seasons Eatings has a list of top 10 things Garfield would do if he replaced Santa. Among them is "Order kids to leave out a T-bone steak and curly fries for him instead of milk and cookies."
    • The 12-12-2012 strip had Garfield emailing his wish list to Santa and promising to leave out plenty of cookies for him. Jon claims "You can't bribe Santa!", but at the North Pole the big guy is revealed to be excited about the promise...
  • The throwaway joke of the Christmas Day 1988 strip of Calvin and Hobbes has Calvin telling his dad that he's leaving out a sandwich for Santa. Calvin then asks whether Santa would like some milk with it, and his dad responds, "I think "Santa" would rather have a cold beer," much to his mother's annoyance.
  • In one FoxTrot strip, Jason is making Christmas cookies, telling Roger he's making one for Santa; Roger encourages him to choose a much bigger one, and then also encourages him to use lots of cinnamon hearts and chocolate sprinkles. As Jason does so, Andy comes up behind them and snidely says, "And 'Santa' wonders why he's so fat..."

  • 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?"

Video Games
  • 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.

Western Animation
  • 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".
  • Bob's Burgers - the kids leave milk and cookies as bait for a Santa trap - a hand snare in the refrigerator. Teddy gets caught in it while he's checking in on the house for them.
  • The final sketch to the second Robot Chicken Christmas special shows a little boy and his mother coming down on Christmas day to find Santa dead due to a bad allergic reaction to the cookies they left out.
  • Discussed in the Family Guy episode "Road to the North Pole". While Subbing for Santa, Stewie gets mad at Brian for eating the whole cookie rather than just taking a small bite to know that "Santa" was there.

Real Life
  • 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 as a bribe for the Kitchen God, who makes rounds before the Chinese New Year and reports to the Jade Emperor on how the families are doing.