How to host a holiday cookie exchange

Dec 18, 2012 at 8:06 a.m. ET

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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