CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A features department discussion earlier this month centered on snacks left for Santa on Christmas Eve. Creative types by nature, features writers don't only leave cookies and milk for Santa, although most leave those as well, just in case as he really does like them.
Sara Busse's Santa favors Marker's Mark bourbon and her homemade pizzelles. As a child, Bill Lynch and his family left a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich and a cold bottle of Pepsi.
When we asked friends what treats they gave for Santa Claus, they frequently cited cookies and milk or cocoa as expected, but spirited beverages came in as a close second. In various households, Santa prefers bourbon, martinis, whiskey, beer or even sherry to milk
The tradition of setting food out for Santa might have originated in pagan times when people left food sacrifices for their ancestors during the winter solstice. These foods were intended to please the ancestors who would then bless their living descendents.
Later, children left food out for Saint Nicholas, a man who was remembered as being kind to children, on Dec. 6, his feast day. The children hoped Saint Nicholas and his attendants would leave gifts in exchange for the food.
Today, children often leave food for both Santa and his reindeer, probably intended both as nourishment to keep them going on the long night or possibly a bribe for better gifts. In that case, they want to be sure to give Santa what he wants. If he's a martini man, then so be it.
Some of the responses to the question "What treats do you and your family leave out for Santa" are printed below.
"Mince pies and brandy for Santa; carrots for the reindeer. Inexplicably, the reindeer seemed less interested in their carrots than Santa did in his brandy."-- Mike Smith, Huntington.
"Pickles and homemade cookies. The pickles are for the reindeer. They are always gone when we get up, so somebody likes them... the pickles that is."-- Debbie Rainey Haught, Charleston.
"We always left oatmeal cookies with raisins so Santa could feed some to the reindeer with a big glass of milk. Later in life it was a vodka martini."-- Ronald Dunlap, formerly of South Charleston.
"Even though we're Jewish, we wanted to cover all bases, so we left graham crackers."-- David Wohl formerly of Charleston now of Rock Hill, S.C.
"Mom's homemade cookies and those little bottles of Coca-Cola." -- Denise Giardina, Charleston.
"Our Santa likes bourbon balls." -- Kathryn Brown, Charleston.