How do you entertain a visitor, garishly dressed in a most unfashionable color, sooty boots tracking up the floor, who arrives at an unspecified (but very late) hour, only to eat and run?

With a "Ho-Ho-Ho," of course, and an assist from the children of the house, who are much better at devising meals for Santa Claus than an older person could ever be.

The chubby gentleman is obviously no proponenet of cuisine minceur , his late-night snacking on sandwiches, cookies and milk have left their mark. Planning such a menu is best left in the hands of the children, who are trying to get through the long, impatient hours before Christmas.

Set up your chefs in a corner of the kitchen, get out the Christmas cookie-cutters, and let them start the meal with sandwiches cut into holiday shape. The filling should be of their own choosing, since the usual method of preparation is one for Santa, one for me.

They can also bake the cookies themselves. The following recipe can be easily handled by children, a fact I can verify since it was the one my mother set us to making when she couldn't stand one more question on how long it would be before Santa Claus would arrive.

Cream 1/4 pound, plus 6 tablespoons, butter or margarine. Add 5 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons vnilla and 1 tablespoon water. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Add approximately 1 cup chopped pecans and mix thoroughly. Using portions about the size of a small walnut, roll the cookies into a crescent shape and arrange them on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a slow oven (325 degrees) for about 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to show brown. While still warm, sprinkle them with powdered sugar.

If you don't have a sugar shaker, have the children put some confectioners sugar in a regular sieve and let them shake it over the cookies.

The proper host tries to think of everything, so when the sandwiches and cookies are ready and prettily arranged on a plate, send the children out to pick greens for the reindeer. Finding a proper, weedy meal for Dancer and Donner and Vixen and Blitzen and all their pals (not forgetting a bundle for Rudolph) ought to fill the hours before dinner.