Holiday Cookie Exchange Ideas

Each year, I usually bake a variety of cookies to have around for guests, family and friends during the holiday season.  I like giving them away to co-workers and neighbors.  Most of the cookies I bake freeze well, so I can work ahead in batches, making the task seem more manageable. One alternative to doing all the baking on your own is to enlist your friends or co-workers in a cookie exchange. Fun and social, a cookie exchange is a great way to bring folks together for a little cheer and everyone leaves with a variety of fresh, homemade cookies!

If you go this route, ask each person to bring four-dozen cookies.  If you ask for too many more than that, the thought of preparing for the party may become overwhelming to your guests.  The more guests you have, the more variety you will have, although there will be less of each cookie to go around.  I don’t consider this a problem, because not everyone wants every cookie anyway.  Regardless, there will be plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Ask guests to bring a plate for displaying their cookies and a container for taking their collection of cookies home.  As host, you may want to have some Ziploc bags available in the event your guests forget to bring bags or containers for taking their cookies home.

Technically, this party is called a cookie exchange, but there’s no reason someone could not bring fudge or candy or chocolate bark or…you get the picture.  I think the only hard and fast rule should be no store-bought cookies.  If someone is not a baker, or does not have time to bake, then perhaps they could bring an appetizer, a bottle of wine, or some non-alcoholic punch.

Ask participants to bring copies of the recipe they used to share, or at least one copy of it.  This way, you can hand the recipes out at the party, or, following the party, you can compile the recipes into one document and send it out to participants as a thank you for participating.

It is nice to serve some food other than the cookies.  If you make it a weekend brunch activity, serve coffee, tea, muffins and fruit.  Set your party for a Sunday afternoon and provide drinks with nibbles like nuts, dried fruit and a cheese plate.  If you choose a weeknight, you may want to provide heavier appetizers in the event guests consider it dinner.

In preparation for the party, clear a large table and cover it with a cloth.  Turn on some holiday music and put out your light snacks and drinks. When guests arrive, ask them to set their cookies (and recipes if they brought them) on the table.  It will be a wonderful display!  Enjoy each other’s company for a while and then turn to the cookie display. Ask each person to describe their contribution and its ingredients. More often than not there is an interesting or entertaining story that goes with their choice.  Invite guests to help themselves to cookies, using the containers they brought to collect them.  Some cookies may be more popular than others, which is why it is nice to ask for the recipes in the event guests want to replicate a cookie they find at the party.

If you are looking for other activities to work into your cookie exchange, you might consider a book swap.  In addition to bringing cookies, ask guests to bring a used book that they enjoyed reading and would be willing to swap for another used book.  Or, you might consider a used ornament swap following the same format.  You could also suggest a new ornament swap.  Set a price limit and ask guests to bring an ornament, wrapped, and then let everyone select a present and open them in front of the group.

With a holiday cookie exchange, everyone participates, everyone appreciates the effort, and everyone goes home with a plate full of home made cookies.  What’s not to like?

Kristen Desmond

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