On Christmas Eve, millions of kids all over the world will be leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, and many will also provide a few carrots for his trusty reindeer.
Though my family did not do this when I was little, I’ve more than made up for it since. Any holiday tradition involving cookies is fine by me, and Santa deserves the very best. 🙂
Until I read A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal (HMH, 2017), I didn’t know very much about Santa in the context of other cultures. As an egocentric American, my concept of “cookies and milk” was very generic — a few sugar cookies here, a gingersnap there, chocolate chip cookies everywhere. That’s understandable when you tend to think Santa belongs only to you.
Silly me, Santa belongs to everyone, and he enjoys lots of deliciously different treats (not all are cookies) as he travels hither and yon. Yes, he swigs a lot of milk, but he’s also able to wet his whistle with tea, beer, sparkling cider, eggnog, hot chocolate and wine. Lucky man!
In this delightful and informative book (one destination per page), a friendly narrator first invites us to “follow along on Santa’s tasty trip around the globe, country by country and cookie by cookie.”
His first stop is at Christmas Island (Kiritimati) in the southern Pacific. Since it’s in the world’s farthest forward time zone (just west of the International Date Line), Kiritimati is “the first place in the world to welcome Christmas Day.”
The happy children there feed Santa sweet coconut macaroons. Then it’s on to New Zealand and Australia (Anzac biscuits + fruit-filled ‘White Christmas’ treats), before the bearded one heads north to Japan, where, known as “Hoteiosha,” he scarfs down a piece of strawberry-topped Christmas cake.
Thus sugared up and guided by time zones, he travels largely westward (32 stops in all), spreading good cheer and noshing at such wonderful places as South Africa, Malawi, Ukraine, Great Britain, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, the USA, and Canada.
We learn not only about Santa’s different names: Sinterklaas (Indonesia), Naththal Seeya/Christmas Grandfather (Sri Lanka), Père Noël (France + Canada), Julemande/Christmas Man (Denmark) — but about how the children anticipate his arrival and how he delivers/leaves his gifts.
Did you know that in Indonesia, where most homes don’t have chimneys, the children place their shoes near the door or in front of a homemade pretend fireplace for Santa to fill with gifts? In Ireland, stockings are hung at the foot of the bed, in Ukraine, Saint Nicholas quietly slips gifts under the pillows of sleeping children.
Not content to always climb down the chimney, Santa likes to vary his entrance: he arrives by donkey in South Africa, uses a magic key to open the front door in Australia, and climbs through windows in Egypt and Chile.
He doesn’t always sneak in on Christmas Eve, either. In Malawi, he gives children their gifts at school parties, and in Denmark, Julemande places presents under the tree while families are eating dinner. Once they’re done, children thank him in person and share yummy rice pudding (risalamande) with him. Does he have the best job on the planet or what? 🙂
In addition to all the delectable cookie descriptions, Furman mentions interesting holiday customs especially appealing to kids. In France, families celebrate Christmas Eve with 13 different desserts (Santa gets his choice!), and there’s the Noche Buena celebration in Spain, where people enjoy singing and dancing after a big meal. In Argentina there are big fireworks displays, and just after midnight in Mexico, children break open a piñata before going to bed.
Susan Gal’s festive chalk on paper media collages are splashy, colorful, and wonderfully textured, enhancing Furman’s text with cheery mélanges of happy children, costumes, architectural landmarks, flora, fauna, tree decorations, domestic objects, and of course, food. Truly a feast for the eyes.
As they page through, young readers will delight in the engaging smorgasbord of details that emanate the flavors of each locale, from origami cranes to palm trees to cut-paper snowflakes to shamrocks.
Which cookies would I most like to taste? Hard question, but maybe a Brazilian brigadeiro, a Canadian Nanaimo bar, or Spanish almond tile cookies — that is after I’ve nibbled on kulkuls (India), Polish kolaczki, a French yule log, a mince pie (GB/Ireland), and pan de pascqua (Chilean Christmas bread filled with candied fruit). *licks lips*
Front endpapers show Santa’s route on a world map, and back endpapers feature the same map with cookies coded for each of his stops. Furman’s Author’s Note discusses how Christmas celebrations in other countries may begin before December 25 and extend into January. She also mentions that some countries have unique gift-bringers (Germany’s Christkind, Italy’s Le Befana) in addition to their versions of Santa Claus.
But no matter where you live, what you might call him, or what kind of treat you offer him, Santa ultimately symbolizes for everyone the joy of giving and the spirit of Christmas. Kids will thoroughly enjoy this celebration of food and cultural diversity, and will likely want to try some of the cookies mentioned.
Good thing Ms. Furman included nine cookie recipes in the back. Did you like your taste of Pineapple Macadamia Bar at the beginning of this post? Well, it’s time for another bite. 🙂
PINEAPPLE MACADAMIA BARS
Though the United States is featured in a fabulous double-page spread (with mention of iced sugar cookies, gingerbread people and chocolate chip cookies), two states get special treatment in this book with pages of their own: Alaska and Hawai’i.
Since I’m a teensy bit partial to Hawai’i, this made me happy. Santa knows how to save the best for last. 🙂
Hawaiian children won’t hear the sound of hoofs on their roofs, but they might see Santa’s footprints in the sand where he hopped off the surfboard pulled by a dolphin. Kanakaloka comes through the windows that are left open to allow the cooling trade winds to blow through. Children will find their gifts under the trees they decorate with garlands, shells, and starfish. The present they give him of sweet, chewy pineapple-macadamia bars is a refreshing treat.
Mr Cornelius liked the idea of Santa riding on a surfboard so much, he insisted we make the Pineapple Macadamia Bars immediately. No problem — we always have macadamia nuts and flaked coconut on hand, and just needed a can of crushed pineapple.
The buttery crust is like a shortbread cookie, and the chewy filling, featuring three typically ‘Hawaiian’ ingredients, makes these bars totally scrumptious. One bite, and you’ll be dreaming of tropical breezes and sandy beaches. Add these to your cookie platter this holiday season and they will disappear in no time. So ono!
Pineapple Macadamia Bars
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 1/4 cup well-drained crushed pineapple
- 3/4 cup toasted chopped macadamia nuts, almonds, or pecans*
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175° C). Grease 9-inch square pan.
- In small bowl, stir together butter, brown sugar, and flour. Combine until blended.
- Spread evenly on prepared pan, pressing lightly.
- Bake crust for 10 minutes, until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In large mixing bowl, beat together eggs and brown sugar.
- Sift flour mixture into eggs and brown sugar.
- Add coconut, pineapple and nuts. Stir to combine well.
- Spread topping mixture evenly over baked crust.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden around edges and set.
- Cool for about 10 minutes, then cut into bars and allow to cool completely.
*To toast nuts, spread out in a single layer in an ungreased skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden brown.
Jama’s Note: I used an 8″x8″ pan because I wanted thicker bars.
~ from A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal (HMH, 2017), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.
A WORLD OF COOKIES FOR SANTA: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World
written by M.E. Furman
illustrated by Susan Gal
published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2017
Nonfiction Picture Book for ages 4-7, 48pp.
*Includes Author’s Note and 9 recipes
🎅Find out more at The World of Cookies for Santa Website!
This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs, aprons, and jingle bells and come join the fun!
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2017 M.E. Furman, illustrations © 2017 Susan Gal, published by HMHCo, 2017. All rights reserved.
**Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.