As some children prepare for St. Nick's arrival, many will perch cookies and a glass of milk on the hearth, while others will simply leave Santa's goodies on an end table. Either way, most parents are excited to have an excuse to snack on sweets late into the evening as they wrap gifts. However, this is an American tradition, and other countries have their own version. Here are some interesting facts about the "milk and cookies" Christmas tradition.
According to History.com, the modern tradition can be traced back to the Great Depression in the 1930's. Parents wanted to teach their children the value of charity, so they baked chocolate chip cookies to place in stockings and poured a glass of milk for Santa, a typical childhood treat. So, for more than 80 years, children have been leaving cookies and milk out for the jolly man. "History" points out, however, that this tradition is a derivative of Norse mythology. Odin, a Norse god, rode upon Sleipner, his eight-legged horse. During the Yule season, children left carrots and other treats for the horse with the hope that Odin would recognize their altruism and give out gifts for the act.
According to an article in "The New Yorker," author Jon Michuad, notes that Toll House chocolate chip cookies were invented in the 1930's, and even though chocolate was in short supply and rationed sharply, women were encouraged to make chocolate chip cookies to send to their husbands or lovers overseas, as even the smallest dose of chocolate provided a sweet distraction from financial woes on the home front and nice reminders overseas. This train of thought evolved to meet the holidays.
Children around the world leave different treats for Santa. According to
"History," Irish children offer Santa Guiness and cookies, while children from Great Britain and Australia are known to give sherry and mince meat pies. Germany avoid foods all together by writing letters to the representation of the Christmas spirit, Christkind, decorated to catch its eye. The Swedes feed Santa hardy rice porridge.
I hope that the symbolism of milk and cookies, altruism, continues to resonate with children that prepare them and the adults that partake of these treats. You can also volunteer at a local soup kitchen or donate to Feed America to demonstrate the purpose of this symbolism in a more pertinent way. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!