Conde Nast Digital StudioMaddie Donnelly, Gourmet Live
We all know the drill: Put on your PJs, read "The Night Before Christmas," place a pile of freshly baked cookies on a plate by the tree, along with a glass of cold milk, and then head to bed to count sheep for what feels like forever. Wake up to crumbs, a letter from Santa, and a mountain of shiny presents. It's like the Super Bowl of being a kid.
Santa Claus himself-or rather, the monk St. Nicholas (whose feast day happens to be today)-dates back to 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey. But how about some of the other traditions? Leaving cookies for our cheerful patron, for example?
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Leaving a snack for St. Nick most likely dates back to the aforementioned poem by the Episcopal minister Clement Clarke Moore. Until it's publication in 1822, St. Nicholas, by then well-known throughout Europe and North America, didn't have a universal image. Practically everything we associate with Santa's appearance, in fact, is due to Moore.
As the myth of the "jolly old elf" with a tummy that "shook like a bowl full of jelly" spread-and became increasingly commercialized-Santa came to be known not only for his kindness and giving, but also an insatiable love of sweets. In the '30s, with the Depression firmly in place, naughty children began leaving cookies out for him as a bribe while, nice children, upon the insistence of their parents, left cookies as a token of gratitude.
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Today, kids all over the world leave epicurean treats for St. Nick, from rice porridge in Sweden to mince pies in England and Australia to Guinness beer in Ireland. The most popular treat left for Santa in America? Oreo cookies.
Leave Santa something homemade this year by whipping up one of these Christmas cookie recipes.
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