Santa always gets cookies, but what about his trusty reindeer? While a carrot on the plate might have been enough for generations past, social media-obsessed millennial parents have driven a rise in "reindeer food" — usually an oat-based recipe that gets sprinkled on the lawn and comes with a magical poem to get kids extra excited for the arrival of Rudolph and co.
What is reindeer food?
The origins of this tradition are decidedly recent, but its popularity has exploded in recent years. Artisanal food shops sell reindeer food, Etsy is full of reindeer food bags and tags,and you can even order the snack on Amazon.
But this year, as everyone is looking for ways to make a socially distanced Christmas special, reindeer food is especially appealing. Why? Well, reindeer food packets are easier to mail than cookies for family and friends you can't be with physically; it gives kids stuck at home a creative activity that doesn't include a screen; the mixture can be as sweet or healthy as any individual family wants them to be; and it's an activity kids can do with friends and family they can only see outdoors.
How to make reindeer food
To make your own reindeer food, you just need a recipe and then something to store the food in — anything from a zip-top bag to a Mason jar would work. The recipes vary from edible healthy oats and spices to more fanciful glitter concoctions. Since reindeer food is a new tradition, there is no right or wrong way to make it, except to just be sure that, if you're using glitter and sprinkling it outside, it is edible glitter. Because whether or not you believe in Dasher and Dancer, birds and bugs will certainly eat whatever gets sprinkled and it is definitely not in the Christmas spirit to harm wildlife.
The easiest (and healthiest) recipe for reindeer food is akin to muesli — perfect for actual animals — and whatever you have left over can be eaten by humans with yogurt or milk for a healthy Christmas morning breakfast. Oats are always at the center, and then adding a bit of green with pistachios and red with dried cranberries makes it feel festive. Adding in sliced almonds and sunflower seeds gives a bit of extra crunch, but items like raisins, coconut, chocolate chips, flax seeds or dried fruits would all work great, too. Top it off with some holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and you have the perfect treat to eat at home or share with friends and family.
Reindeer food poems
To make your reindeer food into a gift, you can put it into cellophane bags or Mason jars. Print out or draw tags that include an instructional poem explaining the purpose of the reindeer food. There are a lot of variations on the poem, but one that shows up a lot goes as follows:
Sprinkle this reindeer food outside tonight,
The moonlight will make it sparkle bright.
As the reindeer fly and roam,
This will guide them to your home.
This is the year of all years to create new traditions — so why not sprinkle a little magic (in healthy snack form) into your holiday?