Milk and cookies might be the traditional Santa offering on Christmas Eve, but in at least one household, St. Nicholas will be getting smoked salmon and scotch.
It's just one out-of-the-ordinary example we gleaned from a call out to fans of NPR's Facebook page. Many of them involved a different sort of Christmas "spirit" — the kind that could push Mr. Claus over the legal limit, at least during the U.S. leg of his annual aerial circumnavigation.
Many seem to think Santa likes a good stout. Aliceann Marquiess of Ponca City, Okla., writes that she might leave a Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout along with a "plate of homemade pumpkin bread with cream cheese icing." Hilary Sears of St. Louis plans to set out Guinness and cookies, as does Nicola Kerr Auchampach of Boise, Idaho.
"My parents always told me that Santa would probably appreciate a beer," says Seattle's Kamala Squires.
"I happen to know he enjoys it," says Aaron Edwards of Aiken, S.C.
In other households, it's the hard stuff. Bourbon, brandy, rum-soaked fruitcake, eggnog with a little Bushmills Irish Whiskey and a Don Julio tequila margarita (with a side order of fish tacos and guacamole) were among the treats.
Other holiday offerings may well reflect changing attitudes toward overall health and weight gain. While obesity statistics for certain jolly North Pole residents are difficult to come by, awareness of skyrocketing rates in much of the world — and the U.S. in particular – no doubt inspired some choices. Jennifer Farney's hopelessly healthful "gluten-free oatmeal cookies with chocolate and toffee" and Shawn Powell's "homemade vegan candy cane cookies and almond milk" were just a few.
Then there's the 6-inch turkey sub from Subway and a Dr. Pepper from Mae Hochstetler's household in Kenmore, Wash.
Santa's team seems to be getting mostly healthful snacks this year. Carrots seem to be the traditional choice for reindeer, no doubt contributing to their excellent night vision (Rudolph notwithstanding). Other households planned to leave out apples and even raw rutabaga.
Cynthia Stroffolino says her girls change Santa's treat every year, but for the reindeer, "It's always carrots."
Santa also can look forward to some gourmet surprises, some of which would land most people on the naughty list at the local gym.
Paul Martinez's plate next to the chimney would do any chef proud: "stuffed mushrooms, crab meat mousse with crackers, breaded chicken strips" as well as fudge and peanut brittle. Oh, and a beer.
For dessert, there were pies: Dutch apple, mince, pecan. And cakes: cheesecake, various fruitcakes and Bundt cakes (rum-soaked and otherwise).
A few items on the snack menu were truly inspired — both coming from the imaginations of 5-year-olds.
"My 5-year old daughter felt it necessary to make Jello Jigglers for Santa," says Micaela Liles of St. Louis. "I don't know where it came from, but we are gonna make them today."
And then there's Julie Steinberg: "My 5-year-old son left a Nutella sandwich for Santa about 3 days ago (in case he came early)."