After takeoff from the North Pole with his trusty reindeer, Santa Claus has his work cut out for him. Somehow he manages to deliver our favorite gifts to millions of homes, all on the night before Christmas.
In return for his hard work, he is usually rewarded with a variety of refreshments. Here are some traditional gifts that kids leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve around the world.
American boys and girls leave milk and cookies for Santa Claus, like our Test Kitchen-approved Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies recipe.
Knit stockings are hung on the fireplace for Santa to stuff with small gifts—or coal for the naughty children—before he ascends back up the chimney.
On Christmas Eve, German children write handwritten letters to the Christkind, a gift-bearing angel that represents the Spirit of Christmas. On Christmas morning, the letters are gone and replaced with gifts. Get in the holiday spirit with traditional German Christmas foods.
Danish tots gift Santa with a filling bowl of rice pudding, or risengrod. According to legend, there may be trouble if someone forgets to leave it our for him. You’ll want to try your hand at some of these rice pudding recipes, straight from Grandma’s kitchen.
English families leave Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas) a glass of sherry and a slice of mince pie to warm up on Christmas Eve.
Argentinian children leave their shoes outside their front doors, in hopes of finding them filled with presents. They are also known to thoughtfully leave out some water and hay for Santa’s reindeer.
Italian children await Babbo Natale to bring presents on Christmas Eve while they sleep. Another tradition involves La Befana, an old lady who delivers gifts to boys and girls on Epiphany, which falls on January 6. The kids hang stockings by the fireplace for Befana to fill. Panettone, a sweet bread, is left as a treat. Our Black Forest Panettone Pudding will have you saying Buon Natale!
Find more unusual Christmas traditions you’ve never heard of.
In Sweden, Christmas presents are delivered by Tomte (which means “the Gnome”). Swedish children leave out a hot cup of coffee to help keep him awake for the rest of his journey. By the way, there’s a reason Scandinavian coffee tastes so good—find out the secret ingredient.
In Ireland, kids leave out mince pies and pints of Guinness for Santa. He may not want to leave the house to finish his rounds! You may not want to either, after you try our Chocolate Guinness Cake.
Pere Noel receives biscuits when he arrives at French families’ homes. Here are some traditional French Christmas recipes to prepare.
Australian children set out cookies for Santa, but instead of milk, they leave him an ice-cold glass of beer. After all, December is summer in the land Down Under. The children leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer to munch on, too.
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Almond Spritz Cookies
This almond spritz cookies recipe can be left plain or decorated with colored sugar and frosting. In our house, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without some cookie press recipes.—Tanya Hart, Muncie, IndianaGo to Recipe
Gingerbread Men Cookies
No holiday treat platter would be complete without gingerbread man cookies! This is a tried-and-true recipe I’m happy to share with you. —Mitzi Sentiff, Annapolis, MarylandGo to Recipe
Vanilla-Butter Sugar Cookies
These are one of my favorite cookies to bake for Christmas. The dough recipe is versatile and you can use it for other holidays, too. Children like to help with decorating. —Cynthia Ettel, Glencoe, MinnesotaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
My group of friends had a weekly “movie night” during winters on Martha’s Vineyard, and we’d take turns making a chocolate treat to share. These terrific cookies were an instant success. Once they debuted, I had to make them many more times. —Laura Bryant German, W. Warren, MassachusettsGo to Recipe
Dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in crushed peppermint candy, these flavorful biscotti are a favorite. They are among the many sweets I make for Christmas. —Paula Marchesi, Lenhartsville, PennsylvaniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Italian Rainbow Cookies
My family has made these classic Italian cookies for generations, and this homemade version is so much better than the bakery version. They are always a special treat during the holidays or any time of year!—Cindy Casazza, Hopewell, New JerseyGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Peanut Butter Christmas Mice
With their black licorice tails, candy noses and peanut ears, these chewy “mice” were always a hit at classroom parties. My children are in their teens now, but they still ask me to make these cookies for the holidays. —Nancy Rowse, Bella Vista, ArkansasGo to Recipe
Christmas Sandwich Cremes
These melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies have a scrumptious filling. I helped my sister make these in high school when she needed a project in her home economics class. My guess is that these were some of the best Christmas cookies in her class. She got an A+! —Janice Poechman, Walkerton, OntarioGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Buttery Spritz Cookies
This tender spritz cookie recipe is very eye-catching on my Christmas cookie tray. The dough is easy to work with, so it’s fun to make these spritz cookies into a variety of festive shapes. This is hands down the best spritz cookie recipe ever. —Beverly Launius, Sandwich, IllinoisGo to Recipe
This recipe was adapted from one that my Italian-born mother and grandmother followed. They used old irons on a gas stove, but now we have the convenience of electric pizzelle irons. These delectable cookies are still a traditional treat in our family. —Elizabeth Schwartz, Trevorton, PennsylvaniaGo to Recipe
Coconut lovers will have extra reason to celebrate when they taste these cakelike drop cookies. The generous frosting and coconut topping make them a hit at holiday cookie swaps. —Donna Scofield, Yakima, WashingtonGo to Recipe
The history of this whimsically named treat is widely disputed, but the popularity of this classic cinnamon-sugar-coated cookie is undeniable! —Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to Recipe
This recipe for peppermint meltaways is very pretty and festive-looking on a cookie platter. I often cover a plate of these peppermint cookies with red or green plastic wrap and a bright holiday bow in one corner. And yes, they really do melt in your mouth! —Denise Wheeler, Newaygo, MichiganGo to Recipe
Frosted Eggnog Cookies
Eggnog stars in both the cookie and frosting in this new-found recipe, imparting a subtle holiday flavor.—Amanda Taylor, Glen Ewen, SaskatchewanGo to Recipe
Gingerbread Oatmeal Cookies
Cookie butter and ground ginger add a new layer of flavor. The recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies, and they go fast. You may want to make a double batch. —Carole Resnick, Cleveland, OhioGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Jeweled Coconut Drops
Red raspberry preserves add a festive flair to these tender coconut cookies. Perfect for potlucks and cookie exchanges, these shaped cookies never last long when I make them for my husband and two sons.
-Ellen Marie Byler
Munfordville, KentuckyGo to Recipe
I get tremendous satisfaction making and giving time-tested yuletide treats like these soft, chewy cookies. Dipping them in white chocolate makes much-loved gingersnaps even more special. —Laura Kimball, West Jordan, UtahGo to Recipe
Traditional rugelach gets dressed up for the holiday with pistachios, cranberries, and snow-white icing. Rich but not too sweet! — Deborah Hinojosa, Saratoga, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies
Although these cookies require a little extra effort, they’re worth it. I make them for every family gathering—and they never last long! —Marie Kinyon, Mason, MichiganGo to Recipe
Scottish settlers first came to this area over 150 years ago. My mother herself was Scottish, and—as with most of my favorite recipes—she passed this shortbread recipe on to me. I make a triple batch of it each year at Christmas, to enjoy and as gifts. —Rose Mabee, Selkirk, ManitobaGo to Recipe
Holiday Almond Tassies
I make so many of these fancy tassies, I use up a 7-pound container of almond paste every year! They’re one of my family’s holiday favorites. —Donna Westhouse, Dorr, MichiganGo to Recipe
You’ll need just four ingredients to make these delightful cookies. Confectioners’ sugar highlights the cracked tops to give them their snowflake appearance. —Linda Barry, Dianna, TexasGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Jolly Ginger Reindeer Cookies
I made gingerbread cookies for years before realizing my gingerbread-man cutter becomes a reindeer when turned upside down. They’re super crispy and fun! —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Italian Pignoli Cookies
Cookies are the crown jewels of Italian confections. I can’t let a holiday go by without baking these traditional almond cookies rolled in mild pine nuts.—Maria Regakis, Somerville, MassachusettsGo to Recipe
Fig & Almond Cookies
In our family, holiday cookies—like these nutty fig ones—are a big deal. I’m so proud to be passing on this Italian tradition to my two boys. —Angela Lemoine, Howell, New JerseyGo to Recipe
These whipped shortbread Christmas cookies melt in your mouth. Mostly I make them for the holidays, but I’ll also prepare them year-round for wedding showers and afternoon teas. —Jane Ficiur, Bow Island, AlbertaGo to Recipe
Italian Christmas Cookies
A single batch of these ricotta cheese cookies is never enough. I usually make one to give away and two more to keep at home. The ricotta cheese makes the morsels extra moist. —Doris Marshall, Strasburg, PennsylvaniaGo to Recipe
Touch-of-Gold Christmas Trees
You can decorate these pretty Christmas trees with other types of sprinkles if you don’t have the gold dust. The filling alone makes the cookies special and so delicious! —Linda Sweet, Cornwall, New YorkGo to Recipe
Fruitcake Christmas Cookies
As holiday gifts, these rich fruit-and nut-filled cookies are pretty and practical. These are great make ahead Christmas cookies —the taste actually gets better over time! —Julia Funkhouser, Carson, IowaGo to Recipe
Callahan Christmas Wreaths
When my family asked for good old Norwegian wreath cookies, I studied several recipes for ideas, then added my own special touches. — Cassidy Callahan, Fitchburg, MassachusettsGo to Recipe
White Velvet Cutouts
We make and decorate these cutouts for different holidays and give lots of them as gifts. Last year, we baked a batch a week before Christmas to be sure we’d have plenty to give and plenty for ourselves, too. These rich cookies melt in your mouth. —Kim Hinkle, Wauseon, OhioGo to Recipe