Christmas Cookie Exchange Party

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.

Two women at Cookie Exchange Party

Cookie Exchange Party

Robin Olson and her friends enjoy a bounty of cookies without bunches of baking.

Hostess greets Christmas cookie exchange guests

Guests Arrive At Cookie Exchange Party

Guests arrive at Robin's doorstep bearing oven-fresh offerings for the traditional cookie swap in early December.

Ladies socialize around buffet table

Socializing Before Christmas Cookie Exchange

The ladies gather for conversation, games and a taste of Robin’s appetizing buffet as part of the flavorful festivities.

Varieties of Christmas cookies on table

Christmas cookies On the Exchange Table

Exchange rules may require that all treats be homemade, or allow bakery-bought cookies too.

Christmas Cookies on plates

Several Varieties of Christmas Cookies On Plates

It's best to ask guests what kind of cookies they plan to make to avoid duplications.

Cinnamon rolls and M&Ms

Holiday Rolls And Candy Dish

Dishes of candy help keep guests from nibbling on cookies before they get them home!

Green and red Christmas cookie wreaths

Christmas Cookie Wreaths

It's fun to share the story behind each cookie in the exchange, including the recipe's history or tips on baking them.

Two women at Cookie Exchange PartyHostess greets Christmas cookie exchange guestsLadies socialize around buffet tableVarieties of Christmas cookies on tableChristmas Cookies on platesCinnamon rolls and M&MsGreen and red Christmas cookie wreaths


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.”

Editor’s Note: For more about cookie exchanges, visit Robin’s website cookie-exchange.comAnd consider making one of her favorite Christmas cookies, Eggnog Logs.

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.

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