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What kids around the world feed Santa

Indians make kulkuls instead of cookies for Christmas.
Indians make kulkuls instead of cookies for Christmas.Aparna Balasubramanyam/My Diverse Kitchen
Steve Cukrov /

As a child, did you ever wonder whether Santa got tired of eating the same thing at each house he visited? Turns out, you needn’t have worried: though American and Canadian children leave out milk and cookies, the treats left out for him in other countries keep Santa’s night from being anything but monotonous. Here’s a look at what Santa (in whatever form he takes) can expect at houses around the world on Christmas eve.

On Christmas Eve, Danish children leave out a bowl of special Christmas rice pudding called risengrød.The pudding is said to appease Tomte, a white-bearded mythical figure, similar to the English Father Christmas, who brings presents but has been known to cause household mischief if his requisite bowl of risengrød is missing.

In Germany, Santa can only satisfy his appetite for reading. Children there leave letters, not cookies, for Santa (who in Germany takes the form of Christkind, a white-robed, present-bearing figure from which “Kris Kringle” is derived). The letters are usually doused with glitter and attractively displayed on the windowsills. On Christmas morning, when the children wake up, the letters are gone, replaced by presents under the tree.

In France, children don’t leave cookies for the French Père Noël, but instead make sure to fill their shoes with carrots and treats for his donkey, Gui. Père Noël will remove the treats for the donkey and in their place leave small trinkets and tokens for the children.

Dutch children leave out carrots, hay and a bowl of water on Christmas Eve for Sinterklaas’ horse. Sinterklaas, in return, leaves hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, chocolate coins and marzipan figures. Not a bad trade.

Britain and Australia
The Australians and Brits figure Santa needs something a little heartier than milk and cookies to sustain him through his big night, so children leave out sherry and mince pies. The traditional Christmastime treats are made with sweet, sticky fruit and brandy, and baked into bite-sized pies.

Santa can expect more mince pies when he gets to Ireland, but there he’ll get to wash it down with some Guinness, which Irish families traditionally leave out for him on Christmas Eve. And after a long night of hard work, Santa definitely deserves it.

In Chile, Viejo Pascuero (Old Man Christmas) is greeted with a traditional Chilean pan de pascua, a sponge cake flavored with ginger and honey and full of candied fruit.

Indians make kulkuls instead of cookies for Christmas.
Indians make kulkuls instead of cookies for Christmas.Aparna Balasubramanyam/My Diverse Kitchen

Other Christmas Eve eats around the world
Not all cultures set aside food for Santa on Christmas Eve, but if he gets hungry on his long trip, here’s a look at what he can expect in other parts of the world.

Children don’t traditionally leave food out for Christmas Baba in India, but they do make Christmas treats called kulkuls, which are sweet balls of fried dough made from coconut milk. Want to make your own? Get the recipe here. 

In Japan, children can snack on a traditional Japanese Christmas cake, a white sponge cake covered with cream and decorated with strawberries, while waiting for the arrival of the Santa-like Hotei-Osho.

Filipino children go to bed on Christmas Eve dreaming not of sugarplums but of the traditional nochabuena Christmas meal, which involves queso de bola(a ball of Edam cheese) and tsokolate(a hot-chocolate type drink).

A Kenyan child might save lucky Santa a bit of roasted goat, which is the traditional Kenyan Christmas Eve repast.

And if Santa gets thirsty on his trek through Argentina, he can duck into the kitchen for some sidra, an alcoholic apple cider that’s traditionally used to toast on Christmas Eve.

What kind of food did you leave out for Santa when you were a kid?