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Leaving Food for Santa

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"The cookies are great, but I prefer HO-HOS!"
Calvin: I'm leaving out a sandwich for Santa.
Calvin's Dad: That's nice.
Calvin: What do you think he'd like with that? Some milk?
Calvin's Dad: I think "Santa" would rather have a cold beer.
Calvin's Mom: Dear!

Characters leaving out treats for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. This is usually done as a test to see whether he exists, or as an act of good will. The treat differs between countries. In North America it's usually milk and cookies, while in most of Britain it's a mince pie and a glass of sherry or whisky (or a glass of your dad's favourite tipple — funny, that). Sometimes, people also leave food for the reindeer, such as carrots.

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.


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  • 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 he had put underneath a family's tree, and then steals the tree as well, because the family has no milk to go with the brownies they had 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 his daughter what she left for Santa, the kids replied "I didn't leave him cookies; I left him 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?
  • An old locally-produced Louisiana ad for Zapp's potato chips 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.
  • One Trix cereal commercial in the 90s features kids leaving a bowl of Trix for Santa. After they go to bed, the Trix Rabbit, disguised as Santa, comes in and is about to eat the cereal himself, but then the real Santa shows up and the Rabbit gives him the bowl without hesitation.
  • Diamond Walnuts had a commercial where Santa Claus comes to deliver presents, checks out the cookies that are left on a plate for him, says "No Diamond Walnuts?", and then leaves a less desirable present for the person.
  • This '90s Eggo commercial shows a little boy leaving Eggo waffles for Santa, then coming downstairs in the night to find Santa and an elf fighting over them: "Leggo my Eggo!" "No, leggo my Eggo!"
  • There's a 90's Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial which has a little girl deciding to give Santa a KFC meal instead of cookies.

    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).

  • Bad Santa has the Kid repeatedly offering Willie (who plays a mall Santa and has come to stay at the kid's house) some milk and cookies or sandwiches. Except Willie doesn't like cookies or sandwiches and never eats what the kid offered (his actor is a strict vegan who avoids all dairy and wheat).
  • 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.
  • In Violent Night, even if Santa is a jaded drunk, he still appreciates milk and cookies. Only he prefers the real deal, as he's annoyed if the milk is skimmed.

  • In one story from Winnie the Pooh's Stories for Christmas, we have this. While Pooh, Tigger, and Kanga & Roo do leave out different cookies, there are also a few variants, with Rabbit leaving out vegetable stew, Eeyore leaving out brownies, Gopher leaving out root beer and yam cake, and Piglet leaving out a mug of hot cocoa with a list for Santa to help himself to his pantry. The twist is though, everyone doing this trope all at once is too much for Santa, so he has Pooh come along with him to help him out.
  • 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. Later, when Susan is trying to sort out whether or not the Hogfather is actually some kind of god, one of the points is that his believers make offerings to him.
  • 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.
  • Overtime by Charles Stross. Summoned by a belief in Santa an Eldritch Abomination turns up in a ventilation shaft in the Laundry on Christmas Eve. Fortunately Bob is able to temporarily satiate the monster with a plate of pies left over from the office Christmas party, giving him time to set up a banishment spell. It's mentioned that if the pies hadn't been available, the monster would have been free to run amok, as the 'summoner' wouldn't have kept the 'deal' implicit in its summoning.
  • Newspaper columnist D. L. Stewart recounts, via his book Fathers Are People Too, how every year, the children leave treats for Santa and his wife expects him to eat them (she claims that no matter where he hides the cookies, his children will find them and get upset that they weren't eaten). He subsequently has to eat the cookies and drink whatever beverage the kids put out (milk, Coke, club soda, coffee, tea, runny JELL-O, eggnog...), and when his youngest is four, the boy adds nine carrots (for Santa's reindeer, including Rudolph) to the mix. Then it's implied that things will escalate again the following year since, at the urging of one of the older boys, his youngest plans to leave a thousand additional cookies by the tree for Santa to take back to the North Pole for his elves.
  • In the book Arthur's Christmas (a different story than "Arthur's Perfect Christmas" from the TV series), Arthur sees various men dressed as Santa eating assorted foods around town and on TV, including bubble gum ice cream, Chinese food, and pickled peppers. He thinks they're all the real Santa and assumes those foods must be Santa's favorites, so he combines them all in an inventive feast to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. In the end, D.W. secretly feeds the disgusting food to Grandma Thora's dog Killer, then leaves Arthur a fake note of thanks from Santa.

    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.
  • In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Cookie Monster is making out his Christmas wish list to Santa, which of course, consists of a variety of cookies. It's pointed out to him that it's actually customary to leave a plate of milk and cookies out for Santa. He's horrified to hear this.
  • Doctor Who. In the Christmas Episode "The Return of Doctor Mysterio", a young boy sees the Doctor hanging upside down outside his window, requesting entry. Being somewhat cautious, he runs to tell mom before letting him in. She assumes he's referring to Santa, and gives the requisite milk and cookies.

  • Referenced in "'Til Santa's Gone (I Just Can't Wait)" by Clint Black. (The song was once sub-titled "Milk and Cookies".)
  • Referenced in the Twisted Christmas Carol "I am Santa Claus" by Bob Rivers, a parody of Iron Man (by Black Sabbath)
    Leave him cookies and beer
    He'll be back to your house first next year.

    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..."
  • Peanuts: One time Sally left out cookies for Santa and tried to watch for him. Only for Snoopy in a Santa suit to take them.

  • 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 
  • World of Warcraft bringing Gingerbread Cookies and Cold Milk to Greatfather Winter (Azeroth's version of Santa) is a quest you can do during the Feast of Winter's Veil. You get a gift in return, usually some low level crafting materials. (Seeing as any level player can do the quest.)
  • 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.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Prep & 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 is 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: In "Christmas in the Car", 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.
  • In the Justice League Christmas Episode "Comfort and Joy", J'onn is spending the holiday with Clark and family in Smallville. Telepathically hearing a young girl wondering if Santa will really come and eat the snack she left, he flies up to the roof, descends the chimney, and enjoys what looks like an Oreo cookie.
  • In the My Friends Tigger & Pooh special Super Sleuth Christmas Movie, Rabbit comments in the "Christmas Comes Tomorrow" song that he has "artichokes for Santa and, oh yes, carrots for his deer."
  • In How Murray Saved Christmas Murray gets to enjoy the various treats left out for Santa while filling in for him, ranging from some rather nice cannoli in Italy to disgusting fish in Sweden.
  • In the Love, Death & Robots short "All Through the House", two kids stay up late to see if Santa is real, and the first sign Santa isn't exactly how they imagined him comes when they spy an Overly-Long Tongue devouring the milk and cookies.
  • Let's Go Luna!: The folks at the Circo leave food for their native countries' equivalents to Santa in "Luna's Christmas Around the World", with Andy's parents leaving the standard milk and cookies for the American Santa.

    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.
  • In 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.
  • Leaving a bowl of porridge for the farm gnome (known as nisse in Denmark and Norway, or as tomte in Sweden) on Christmas Eve is still customary many places in Scandinavia.
  • 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.