How (and Why) to Host a Cookie Exchange

Cookie choices 1For many years, my friend Christina’s cookie exchange was a highlight of my Christmas season. I looked forward to visiting her lovely home, enjoying the company of mutual friends, and taking home a variety of Christmas cookies I did not make. Then one year, to my surprise, my invitation didn’t come. Nobody’s invitation came that year. Christina was taking time off. “Christmas celebrations should be just that: Celebrations,” she told me. “The exchange became a drudgery because I was too busy, so I took a breather.”

A break from the madness of the season? What a concept! I missed the fun of Christina’s party, but I appreciated her ability to set boundaries.

Christina and me
Christina and me

Christina’s break lasted a few years, so imagine my delight when her Cookie Exchange evite popped up in my in-box this year! With kids at a different stage of life, she’s ready to plan the party again. I asked her how she does it, and here’s what she said:

Christina’s Guidelines for a Good Cookie Exchange

  1. How do you figure out the number of cookies each person should bring? “My goal is that everyone take home two cookies from each party guest. Typically I have between 20 and 30 ladies, so I ask them to bake four dozen cookies each.” Everyone takes one cookie from each tray the first time they go through the line, and one cookie from each tray the second time—as long as the supply holds out.
  2. What number of guests makes the party work best? “You can make the party work with 10-12 people, but you won’t take home as many cookies, or as many varieties of cookie. Somewhere in the 20’s is an ideal number for me. I look forward to bringing home at least 24 different varieties of cookie. If I get 48 cookies, I can make them last through the holiday season.”
    She offered this great tip: “At the end of the party, I separate all my cookies out onto paper plates with a good selection of different cookies on each plate.  I put them in a freezer bags and place them in my deep freeze.  Then, I always have a plate of cookies in my freezer to grab and take to another party, another event, or to put on my counter if I have company.”
  1. Cookie exchange set-up
    Becky adds her cookies to the table

    What cookies do you look forward to seeing at the party? I like the Classic Peanut Blossom (The one with the Hershey Kiss in the middle), because my family fights over them. Aunt Sally Cookies (molasses cookies with royal icing) are a personal favorite of mine, but nobody ever brings them. Italian Wedding Cookies give me that warm cozy feeling. They remind me of when I was little and my Italian family would all sit around and visit during the holiday season. Lately the recipe I bake for the exchange is Peppermint-Frosted Chocolate Yummies.”

  2. Any other tips? Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I invite my guests to bring brunch food, and some of them help with set-up or clean-up. Also, remind your guests to bring an empty container to collect cookies. You can’t use your cookie tray, because it’s covered with your cookies when the collection process begins.

The cookie exchange took place last Saturday morning. After a few years away, I saw it with a fresh perspective. Here are a few of my observations.

  1. The party only lasts two hours. During December, busy women can afford to spend two hours with friends, when they might not feel they can commit to an entire afternoon or evening.
  2. Christmas display with name tags
    Name tag station

    Name tags play an important part in the proceedings. I always meet somebody new at Christina’s house, because she invites people from every section of her life. I see other party guests only once a year. Name tags oil the social machinery.

  3. We take home more than cookies. The cookie exchange gives us time to catch up with friends and build new memories. The cookies will quickly disappear, but the intangible comfort of friendship will last and last.

Cookies distributed
Cookies divided up to take home


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