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How to host a holiday cookie exchange

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

How to... Share the tastes of the season

Holiday cookie exchanges are the yummiest way to celebrate the season. Host a fun gathering that gives everyone the gift of delicious homemade baked goods.

cookie exchange party

Step 1: Pick a date and send invitations

Consider a weekday evening for a holiday cookie exchange. Weekends are often packed with workplace parties and family obligations. Because the holiday season is such a busy time for everyone, invite a larger number of people than you anticipate hosting. Consider making this an adults-only event unless you’re planning on setting up entertainment and refreshments for little ones.

Step 2: Include a checklist on the invitations

When you invite your cookie exchange participants, include a clear checklist of things to do and what to bring. Print your own invitations with boxes your guests can conveniently check off or include a separate checklist in the envelope. If you want to save time and money, use Facebook or Evite to send the invitations. Here are some sample checklist items:

  • Bake and bring 10 dozen cookies.
  • Bake cookies that travel well.
  • Do not include recipes with nuts.
  • Bring storage containers for cookies.
  • Bring copies of the cookie recipe to exchange with other guests.
  • Bring a canned good to the exchange to donate.

Step 3: Set up the cookie display

Gingerbread cookies

Prepare for your party by creating a centerpiece area to display the cookies. Also set up areas to mingle and pack up cookies.

  • Try a large buffet table decorated in festive holiday colors.
  • Use a paper tablecloth and tufts of tissue paper for easy cleanup.
  • Include a separate packing area with ample waxed paper and extra disposable food storage containers for guests to pack up cookies to take home.
  • Offer guests blank labels and colorful pens to label their own cookie containers.
  • Give guests plenty of room to mingle and taste-test cookies.

Step 4: Serve holiday refreshments

The best part of a cookie exchange is indulging in the bounty of holiday cookies. Invite guests to taste-test the cookies on display. Make it easy by including small dessert plates and napkins at the cookie display area. Don’t forget holiday refreshments that pair well with cookies. Try a selection of lightly flavored ice water, spiced apple cider, coffee and a crisp chilled white wine. With all the sweets on the menu, serve a few salty and savory finger foods to combat the sugar overload. Anything with bacon is always a hit.

Step 5: Send your guests home happy

At the end of the exchange, offer your guests a cloth tote bag to carry the cookies home. Try your local grocery store for holiday-themed reusable grocery bags or buy them in bulk online. Remind guests to pick up copies of their favorite recipes so they can add the cookies to their holiday repertoires.

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