Cookies for Santa – and Some Savory Treats

It’s a time-honored Christmas Eve tradition to leave out milk and cookies for Santa. Where does this tradition come from?

A plate of cookies for Santa with Santa's arm in red costume and white gloves, reaching for cookies
Cookies for Santa is an American tradition dating back at least a century. If your kids make the cookies themselves, even better!

The original Feast of Saint Nicholas, a Catholic holiday, goes way, way back. According to the story, the 4th-century Saint Nicholas gave everything he had to help the poor and sick. To honor him, Dutch immigrants began holding a big feast on Dec. 6.

Originally, the feast went on well into the night. Children couldn’t stay up that late, so they would leave out treats for travelling St. Nick and his attendants before going to bed. The kids also would leave out their shoes for St. Nick to put gifts in in return for the goodies.

Eventually, the Feast of Saint Nicholas moved to Christmas time, and children started to leave out treats on Christmas Eve. That practice turned into leaving cookies for Santa.

Some people trace the American version back to the Great Depression in the 1930s. Times were hard for everyone, and milk and cookies for Santa were a fun way to get kids in the giving spirit. By leaving cookies, the children were being helpful and also showing gratitude for whatever they received at Christmas–however humble those gifts may be in hard times.

Should Your Kids Bake Cookies for Santa?

Cookies for Santa is still a wonderful holiday tradition. The beauty of sugar cookies and the like is that the recipes are very simple. Thus many kids can bake the cookies for themselves (with a little supervision).

Stacy Lyn daughters making cookies for Santa

Baking the cookies that they leave for Santa increases the fun and meaning of the giving! That’s why I’ve included my Sugar Cookies from Scratch recipe below. The kids and I have made these cookies together since before they could even talk. I know that Santa would love to find a plate of these with a glass of milk on Christmas Eve. Heck, who wouldn’t?

I’ve also included two other easy cookie recipes. One is super-filling, delicious Cowboy Cookies with oatmeal, chocolate chips, and pecans. These cookies are usually gone within minutes of the batch coming out of the oven in our house. The oatmeal and pecans will give Santa some extra energy on his long journey to deliver toys to all the children.

The other cookie recipe is my personal favorite: Crispy Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies. With bittersweet chocolate melted in a crispy cookie, they are another excellent choice for Santa–and you!

Can You Leave Santa a Savory Treat?

Personally, I wonder if Santa might appreciate a few savory treats to balance out the sugar from all those cookies. That’s why I’m including a couple of cornbread recipes in this list along with the cookies for Santa. Cornbread also goes great with milk, and it will give Santa some steady energy for his sleigh ride!

P.S. Don’t forget to track Santa on NORAD’s Santa Tracker!

Treats for Santa

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