The History Of Why We Leave Milk And Cookies Out For Santa Claus Every Year

By | December 22, 2020

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The Norse god Odin or Wotan, ruler of Asgard. He is holding the spear Gungnir and accompanied by the ravens Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Memory) and the wolves Geri and Freki. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Christmas has evolved to include numerous small traditions, like placing the star atop the Christmas tree, opening advent calendars, and/or leaving a plate of cookies for Santa Claus. But why, exactly, did we decide a mythical being capable of bending space and time needed snack breaks at every pit stop? And why those snacks? No one knows for sure why we leave cookies out for Santa, but we do have some clues to the origins of this holiday tradition.

Odin's Horse

Odin was a chief figure in Norse mythology and one of the bases of the Santa Claus myth, partially thanks to his eight-legged horse, Sleipner, who may have inspired Santa's eight reindeer. During Yuletide, young children often left small treats out for Sleipner to entice him into their homes, hoping Odin would reward them for their generosity.

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(Jaroslav Čermák/Wikimedia Commons)

Offerings For Saint Nicholas

Another figure responsible for our modern understanding of jolly old Saint Nick was, well, jolly old Saint Nick. The real saint was a Greek orphan who decided to use his considerable inheritance to help the needy all over the world instead of buying a yacht or whatever rich people did for fun in the third century. He's celebrated on the day of his death with the feast of Saint Nicholas, where children traditionally leave food items like small cakes and a beverage as an offering to the guest of honor at the end of the feast. During the night, the goodies inevitably disappear, replaced by gifts of thanks for the children "from" Saint Nicholas.