Every kid knows the most important thing to do on Christmas Eve is set out milk and cookies for Santa Claus. If this sacrosanct tradition is forgotten, no one knows what kind of mayhem could ensue—might Santa suddenly remember all the coal-worthy acts performed during the year and decide to take his sack full of toys right back to the North Pole? That’s definitely not a risk worth taking, and so the milk and cookies will appear next to every home’s Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
But aside from the possibility of ensuing catastrophe, why do we do this? Who started it? Well, the tradition is probably about as old as St. Nick himself, even if it was under a different name. Centuries ago, as the Norse god Odin flew through the sky on a Yule hunting adventure, children would leave out food for his horse, hoping that Odin would leave some treats for them in return. Eventually, children were leaving snacks for Father Christmas’s horse, and now they are equally considerate of the reindeer and the man himself.
In the 1930s, kids in the United States started setting out milk and cookies, and often some carrots for the reindeer. The most popular choice of cookie is the Oreo, but the selection has been known to differ based on the preference of the parents (though it’s unclear why this should have any bearing on Santa’s cookie plate).
So this Christmas Eve, you’ll have a lot of company as you make up a plate of cookies, and Santa will be sure to appreciate both the thought and the sugar boost for the long night of work.