Santa’s milk and cookies: The history behind the popular Christmas tradition

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For decades, American children have been leaving out cookies and milk for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, but few people know how and when the holiday tradition began. 

In a special Christmas episode of Fox Nation’s “At Home With Paula Deen,” the celebrity chef breaks down the fascinating history behind the sweet tradition and how it inspired countries across the globe in a new episode of a “Cookie Cutter Christmas.”

“We can thank the Dutch along with other Northern Europeans for bringing cookies to America in the 17th century,” Dean said. ” After a change in import laws, inexpensive kitchen items like cookie cutters were finally allowed to be imported from Europe into the American market. From there, a bunch of new recipes started to appear and the cookies and traditions we knew from the Middle Ages began to evolve.”

According to one theory, the milk-cookies custom can be traced back to the 1930s, during the Great Depression. During that time of economic hardship, many parents tried to teach their children that it was important to give to others and to show gratitude for the gifts they received over the holiday. 

The custom eventually stuck, serving as an inspiration to countries across the globe who embraced their own versions of the popular Christmas tradition.

British and Australian children leave mince pies and a glass of sherry. Children in Denmark leave a bowl of rice pudding, while those in Ireland leave Santa a good old cup of Guinness, explained Dean.

“Hopefully one of Santa’s elves are leading the sleigh after that stuff,” she joked.

“In America, it’s estimated that Santa eats more than 300 million cookies on Christmas Eve each year,” Dean said, adding, “no wonder he’s got a little punch to him.”

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