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Reindeer Chow: Martha Stewart’s Fakelore becomes Folklore

Folk Tradition:

I don’t know where my mom got this and it’s pretty vague. But my mom used to make reindeer chow. I totally bought into it when I was a kid. It was basically she would make this, and I would always help my mom with this, but we would make bowls of just oatmeal (dry oatmeal), glitter, and I think rainbow sprinkles? And then we put it outside our front door Christmas eve. This was in addition to milk and cookies for Santa. I would go to bed early and I’d wake up the next morning and it would all be gone. And of course my stupid fucking kid brain would be like, ‘They came to eat it! My parents can’t eat oatmeal and dry glitter they’d die!’ And then I found it on a Martha Stewart website reposted from some Etsy thing it’s everywhere. I don’t know where she found it or if it’s that old.”


“Christmas time. This definitely started just with our [nuclear] family, but I think she heard about it from other people she’s friends with. Cause people went all out for Christmas where I’m from even though they’re all Jewish. Cause it’s fashionable. My mom is Jewish. We also celebrate Hanukkah but only for the presents…She just wanted us to celebrate Christmas cause she wanted to give us presents. I love that my mom put so much effort to make sure we just really had a special Christmas.” 

Informant Background:

The informant is 21, from Los Angeles. His dad is Catholic and his mother is Jewish. His mother started this tradition in their family and he said he intends to recreate it for his children.

My Analysis:

I think this piece is unique because it is an example of someone from outside the religious community trying to adopt the folk practice of that religion. I grew up Christian and never knew of this practice, so it is my inclination to assume that it started as fakelore probably created by crafting websites to sell more glitter around the holidays. However, since the informant said he found it on multiple websites and portals as an adult, many people around the U.S. at least appear to be practicing this new holiday tradition. This is similar to the “elf on the shelf” concept, which is fakelore turned folklore. Now that a new wave of children have been raised with this custom, they will pass it on to their children. The descent of practice is what makes it genuine tradition, regardless of how it began.