Whether it is because you have little ones who believe in the seasonal jolly man or simply enjoy the baking that has turned into a family tradition, many families warm up their homes on Christmas Eve by baking a batch of cookies to leave for Santa.

But have you ever wondered where this age old tradition comes from? You may be surprised by the history behind the simple concept of “milk and cookies”…

A Bite Out of History

As the story goes in ancient Norse mythology, Odin (a prominent Norse god) was said to have an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. During the Yule season, children set food out for Sleipnir and Odin in hopes that they would receive gifts in return. Over the years different countries have adopted this idea in cultural festive celebrations. In the United States, it was widely popularized during the 1930’s, during the Great Depression.

In the spirit of the season, leaving cookies and milk for Santa (and carrots for Rudolph and his friends) was an idea intended to bring cheer during a tough time in US history. Parents who were fortunate enough to give gifts during this time, shared the tradition with the intention to teach their children the importance to give and show gratitude.

Today, many continue to evolve “cookies for santa” by adopting the idea in unique family traditions. Read what kids around the world leave out for Santa (or his equivalent holiday counterpart), here.

Our Top Tips for the Best Cookies for Santa

We asked Serendipity Executive Pastry Chef, Amanda what her best tips were to making the best Christmas Cookies for Santa. Here’s what she said:

  1. Always use room temperature butter when creaming your butter and sugar. The creaming method incorporates air into your batter creating a lighter texture cookie. It also helps dissolve and disperse your sugar into the batter. Make sure to cream your butter and sugar until its light in color and fluffy for at least 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Space your cookies evenly apart, at least 2 inches, to allow good air flow for even baking and coloring as well as prevent them from spreading into each other.  In addition, use a portion scoop for consistent cookie dough size.
  3. Refrigerate your cookie dough for at least 3 hours or even better over night. Press your cookies half way down before baking.  Fresh cookie dough often spreads too much. This will help get the best result for size and texture.
  4. Line you sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mats. This will help prevent your cookies from spreading too much and from sticking to the sheet pan.  This also allows you to remove the cookies from the hot sheet pan between batches without having to wait for them to cool completely between baking batches. And clean up couldn’t be easier!
  5. You can make you cookie dough, scoop, freeze, and place in an airtight bag to freeze for up to 3 months in advance.  Your cookies will bake like fresh cookies every time! This allows plenty of time to prepare for the holidays and always have cookie dough just a baking time away.

Bonus Tip: When decorating your cookies with royal icing or butter cream elevate your cookies with flavoring. Add a little lemon juice, vanilla, or almond extract for additional flavor.

Happy baking…and Merry Holidays from the Serendipity Catering Team!