Mingle with friends and get a variety of holiday cookies too, with these tips on how to throw an enjoyable cookie exchange party for your friends.
It’s obvious to anyone, especially at this time of year—Robin Olson is one smart cookie. Her cookie exchange party, held on a Sunday in early December, is “our ‘girls’ break’ from the holiday rush, a chance to connect with friends and neighbors and get into the spirit,” says Robin, who’s from Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“We love the idea of having dozens of different kinds of cookies to sample, without baking them single-handedly. We exchange close to 20 varieties.” When friends arrive, they drop off their cookies on the dining room table, and head to the kitchen and den for food, drink, socializing and a few Christmas-themed games. An hour and a half later, the exchange gets underway.
“As we gather around the table, I review the rules,” Robin explains. “Next, I ask each person to share the story behind their cookies. Then, holding our empty containers, we circle the table clockwise. Everyone takes three or four cookies from each platter, and usually by the third rotation, all of them are gone. Finally, I get everyone together to pose for our annual portrait.”
Robin’s family has a hand in the yummy fun too. Husband Kim prepares refreshments and lights the fireplace, daughter Stephanie helps with baking, and sons David and Sean set up chairs and tables and get the holiday music ready. “As payment,” says Robin, “Kim and the kids have first pick of the cookies I’ve collected.”
Cookie Exchange How-tos
Hosting a holiday cookie exchange can be a batch of fun. Here are some tips from Robin to get you started:
- Invite eight to 15 friends to ensure a nice variety of cookies and conversation.
- Ask each guest to pick a recipe and bake 6 dozen cookies.
- Pick a theme. Consider traditional family favorites or cookies with ethnic flavor.
- Send invitations 4 weeks in advance.
- Avoid duplicates—ask guests, when they RSVP, to share what kind of cookie they plan to bring. Request the recipe then, too, and put together a card pack or simple cookbook for each guest.
- List “rules” on the invitation. Specify if cookies should be homemade. You may want to rule out kinds with soft frosting or ones that need refrigeration.
- Tell guests to bring a large container to take their cookies home. (Keep disposable trays on hand for those who forget.)
- Organize cookies buffet-style on a festively decorated table.
- Plan for socializing before starting the exchange—and don’t forget to take pictures!
- Before the swap, gather everyone around the table to introduce themselves and their recipe.
Photos by Stephanie Olson.