If you have always loved fabulous homemade Christmas cookies, but just don’t have the time to make a large variety of them yourself this holiday season, consider planning a Christmas Cookie Exchange. You only have to make enough of your favorite specialty cookies to share with your friends and they do the same–then you all go home with a lot of wonderful treats to enjoy during the holidays.
Here are basic planning tips so you can host a successful cookie exchange this Christmas.
- Email your family and friends a month in advance to ask who might like to participate in a cookie exchange. This way you can find out who would be willing to bake and share. Send out detailed invitations quickly thereafter to get on your guests’ hectic holiday schedules and to give them time to bake. Denote a start and end time for your party, because everyone is busy at this time of year.
- For the best variety of cookies and conversation, try to have eight to twelve confirmed guests (invite more to allow for cancellations).
- Ask each guest to bake one dozen cookies for each person invited, plus another dozen for sampling during the party. This will allow each guest to go home with a full dozen of each kind of cookie.
- Ask your guests to respond by a specific date and to tell you what type of cookies they plan to bring–this will avoid repetition. All cookies need to be a special homemade variety to make it worth everyone’s while. The cookies need to be able to hold their shapes in transport.
- Ask each guest to bring copies of their recipe to pass around. Since many people have food allergies, it’s important guests know the ingredients in the cookies at your party. You may want to ask that all recipes used be nut-free. Ask your guest to write any family story or ethnic tradition for the cookies on the recipe.
- Keep food safety issues foremost. Ask guests not to bring cookies to the party that require refrigeration after baking.
- Ask each guest to bring a large container to take her cookie assortment home. Have extra containers, ziplock bags and packing materials like foil, plastic wrap, and tape on hand for guests who might forget.
- You may want to send an email reminder the week before the party to make sure everyone is coming and to answer any questions guests may have.
- You will probably already have your home holiday decorations up, so you won’t need many, if any, additional decorations. You might want to put up a cookie-themed wreath on your front door to welcome your guests.
- Set up a large table on which to arrange all the cookies as the guests arrive. Use several cake-stands and pretty platters on which to display the cookies to eat and other light food items you are serving such as fruit, cheese, and nuts.
- Set up another table on which to display the bagged dozens of cookies for each guest to take home.
- Set up another tabletop or counter on which to display a punchbowl, drink dispenser, coffeemaker or carafes. You might even have ice buckets for wine or champagne. Have punch, sparkling water, coffee, cider, milk, hot chocolate, juices, or soda on hand.
- Add the cookies your guests bring to the displays on your dining table as they arrive. Add labels beside each type of cookie.
- When your guests all arrive with their cookies, you can all visit together, participate in activities like sharing family stories about the cookies and Christmas traditions, and of course, enjoying all the home-baked goodies.
- Be sure to take photos of all the cookies and your guests having a wonderful time. And of course, make sure each guest gets all her exchanged cookies to take home before leaving! Enjoy!