Asking, ‘What do reindeer eat?’ is a common question at Christmas – as families with young children decide what they should leave out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve.

There’s no doubt that family traditions are a huge part of Christmas; joining together to carry out our own special rituals is what we remember from when we were small children, not the gifts.

Santa Claus would be very sad if the tradition of feeding him and his hungry reindeers was forgotten. In every country he receives something different to eat and drink and in some countries it’s just the animals who are fed so he never gets bored or full. I wonder which is his favourite treat?

Santa treats in the UK and US

There are slight variations in each family but Santa usually gets a glass of milk, beer or whisky and then biscuits to munch on. Rudolph and his pals are given the healthy option of carrots but the new trend of lighting their way with ‘reindeer food’ laced with glitter adds the taste of oats and magic into their diet.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands it is Sinterklaas and his eight-legged horse who deliver the presents. On Christmas Eve, Dutch children leave out water, hay and carrots for the horse. Sinterklaas won’t mind as he is full up with cookies and biscuits so needs to give his stomach a rest.

Denmark and Sweden

In Denmark Santa is known as Julemand and he is treated to a dish of sweet rice pudding called Risengrod. A million or so bowls of this probably sits quite heavy in his tummy so he is pleased just to be given coffee for good digestion and energy in Sweden.


The children in Germany believe that Weihnachtsmann appreciates the gift of reading over more food so they leave him books to read on his long journey.


It’s hot in Australia at Christmas time so Santa’s job can be thirsty work. Families make sure he stays refreshed and jolly by leaving him a nice cold beer. He gets cookies to line his stomach and the reindeers enjoy their carrots and water.


In Argentina gifts are left out on the 5th January for the Magi, the kings who are on their journey to meet the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Children collect hay and provide water for the king’s horses to give them the energy to reach their precious goal.


Santa is called Viejo Pascuero, or Old Man Christmas, in Chile. Children leave him the delicious dish of Pan de Pascua, a sponge cake sweetened with honey and given a zing of ginger, it’s a perfect energy food.


The tradition of giving gifts and treats for Santa, along with wondering what do reindeer eat, has spread around the world. Leaving food and drink out is a great way to teach children about sharing and saying ‘thank you’ for any gifts they might receive at Christmas time.

If you have a strange tradition in your family, then let the team know!