Christmas Cookie Exchange Tips

Christmas cookie exchange tips

Nothing rings in the holidays like a big plate full of Christmas holiday cookies! I love hosting and going to cookie exchanges each holiday season so I thought I'd share some of my tips to throwing a successful cookie exchange or swap.

Having a Christmas cookie swap is a great way to get a wide assortment of cookies for the holidays without having to do so much work all by yourself. When planning the exchange, you'll want to invite a group of 10 to 14 people so keep that in mind. Cookie loving friends, neighbors and co-workers are the best potential people for the cookie exchange.

The basic idea is that each participant in the exchange makes and brings dozens of their favorite holiday cookie and then at the party they swap their cookies for a half or full dozen of the other participant's cookie creations. What a great way to end up with a delectable tray of homemade goodies for the holidays!

cookie exchange

Image by llstalteri (left), and averagejane (right) on Flickr

Follow These Tips For A Hassle-Free Exchange!

  1. Decide How Many People To Invite - I suggest somewhere between 10 - 14 people. With too few people, you don't get a very big variety of cookies to swap and take home, but with too many people, each participant would need to bake a ridiculous number of Christmas cookies.
  2. Send The Invitations - Make up some fun and festive invitations to tell potential participants about this year's cookie exchange. Be sure to include the date and time. I've found that it works best to have the exchange the 1st or 2nd week in December. Be sure to send the invitations at least 3 weeks in advance because people book up quickly during the holiday season. Sunday afternoons are great for church groups and lunch hours are the perfect time for work group exchanges.
  3. Ask Guests to RSVP - Explain that you need to know if they will be attending so you can figure out how many cookies each participant should bake. Ask people to RSVP at least 10 days before the party so that you can call all of the participants and give them the final tally on how many cookies they need to bring.
  4. Include The Rules with the Invitations - I've found over the years that it is best to lay out the expectations and rules for participating in the exchange right from the get-go. That way there aren't any surprises. See text below for the rules we set for our holiday party.
  5. Assign The Number of Cookies To Bring - Normally I tally up how many participants will be at the party (including myself) and then have each guest bring 1/2 dozen for each guest plus an additional dozen to share. So if there are ten guests total, I would ask each guest to bring 6 dozen cookies (5 dozen for the swap and 1 dozen to share during the party). NOTE that if just a few people are participating, you could ask them to bring a full dozen to swap with each participant.
  6. Share The Recipes - Ask each guest to bring 1 copy of their cookie recipe for each participant OR ask them to e-mail you a copy of the recipe at least a week before the party and you can make a little booklet of the recipes for each guest to take home with them after the party. You can even post the recipes to your personal blog.

Let your creativity shine!

Image by

Image credit: Dinerra

When it comes to invitations, you have a couple of options - create them yourself, buy some locally, or order them online. Personally, I think half the fun is getting those creative juices flowing so I always make up my own invitations. However, I understand that many people are short on time so here are some online shops with adorable invitations. Keep in mind that if you go with pre-printed personalized invitations, they can run upwards of $3.50 each and they have a minimum order of usually 20.

Sample invitation wording (from The Recipe Box):

It's the time of the year

when best cookies are made

What fun to make extra in order to trade

Please come on _________

bring cookies, your best

Exchange yours for others and so will each guest

Bring as many to trade as you want to take home

And some for the table for we're sure

not to roam

Until we've had coffee, tea and a chat

and welcomed the season

There's reason for that

Our baking is done, we'll relax,

we are free

So sing Merry Christmas from you

and from me.


And here's another neighborhood exchange invitation sample from Knoxville Tennessee.

Dear Neighbors:

You are invited to join me at (insert address) for an enchanted evening of recipe and cookie exchanges. I don't want you to miss it because it won't be the same without you.

On (insert date and time), when the sun goes down, my house will be aglow with the spirit of Christmas. The candles will be lit, the hot cider piping and cookies to munch.

Each person will need to bring 12 dozen cookies. One dozen to share during the evening, and the other 11 dozen divided into packages of 6. Please bring your recipe to share. You will return home with a variety of delicious treats for you and your family.

I want you to share the warmth and wonder of this twilight time as we celebrate Christmas in (insert neighborhood name).

There will be a prize for the prettiest packaged cookies!

R.S.V.P. by (insert date and phone number)


Another sample can be found at

You Are Invited To A Tea & Cookie Exchange Party!



Theme: Cookies & Tea

Attire: Festive! Dress comfortably and in theme.

The Details:

A cookie exchange is no ordinary party! No one arrives or leaves a cookie exchange party empty handed. For this special occasion, you must bring an assortment of things:

6-Dozen Home-Baked Cookies: Yes, you read that correctly! Everyone in attendance will bring 6-dozen cookies (baked with the theme in mind) and there will be a swap so that everyone leaves with a large assortment of cookies to bring home to their family. Bring cookies that will hold their shape well. That means: NO soft icings because they are likely to get smooshed in transit.

Recipe Cards: Make enough copies of your cookie recipe to give everyone in attendance a copy, please bring at least 10 copies.

Containers: Bring containers to carry your collection of cookies home with you.

We suggest airtight, freezable containers.

A Fancy Arrangement: Please bring a decorative gift basket or container to display a portion of your cookies on the cookie table.

Please RSVP! Let me know what type of cookie you will be bringing. I would like to ensure that there are a wide variety of cookies baked, so have more than one idea for the cookie you would like to bake, in case someone has already chosen your first choice.

Phone me at _____________.


Email me at______________.

Happy Baking!

Christmas cookie exchange tips

Christmas Cookie Swap Rules

1) No Store Bought Cookies Allowed! Christmas cookies for the exchange must be homemade. I started this rule when someone showed up with boxes of biscotti and bags of Chips Ahoy one year for the cookie swap party. Many participants were disappointed taking home store-bought cookies in exchange for the fresh-baked gourmet cookies they worked so hard to create.

2) Bring Dozens of Cookies - We choose to do a dozen or half-dozen cookies for each participant so that everyone goes home with a great selection and enough cookies to last for at least a few days during the holidays. I warn people in the invitations that they'll be expected to bring dozens of cookies and that I'll call or e-mail the exact number. This way they aren't surprised when they are given the tally.

3) Christmas Theme Cookies Please - We had to start this rule because we'd have years when 4 or 5 people would bring simple Toll House chocolate chip cookies. The Christmas theme requirement just makes everything much more festive and you'll see that people can get pretty creative.

4) Bring Cookies in Pre-Packaged Sets - Ask the participants to bring their cookies already wrapped up in packages or bags of six (or twelve cookies) each. My friends are always so creative using little Christmas cookie tins, holiday themed bags and gift boxes for each set of their cookies. The pre-packaging makes the exchange easier as party-goers don't have to be handling the cookies. Ask them to show up with the cookie packages arranged on a platter or in a basket so they look great on the exchange table. At the party, I set up a different table to serve the tasting cookies, the party food, and the beverages.

Christmas Cookie Making Videos

Cookie Swap Party Day Tips

Like most holiday activities, a festive presentation is central to the success of the party. Have holiday music playing when guests arrive and be sure to have your home or the exchange location decorated with a holiday theme. The scent of pine or cinnamon votive candles along with the smell of freshly mulled apple cider will set the mood too.

At our exchange, I usually serve a few holiday themed appetizers and salty snacks along with the extra cookies that the participants bring to the party. I buy some holiday themed party supplies such as napkins and plates. For party drinks, I try to have milk, hot cider, coffee, tea, water, hot cocoa, punch and other beverages. Usually I set up an area for the party food and beverages and a separate table/area for the swap. That way guests know where to put their cookie baskets when they arrive at the party.

For the swap, I usually buy a set of matching paper Christmas gift bags and give one to each participant. Then each guest goes around the exchange table taking a package of each type of cookies. Be sure to have extra zip-loc bags, wax paper and packaging for those that forget to bag their cookies before they arrive and other unforeseen circumstances.

You can even buy or make your own little holiday party favors to give guests as they are heading home from your fabulous party. Cute little candles, gingerbread men magnets or cookie cutters are great favor ideas!

holiday cookie exchange

Image by mealmakeovermoms on Flickr

Share Your Cookie Love!

A great way to help the community is to ask the participants of your cookie exchange to bring along a package of store-bought cookies for the local food shelf or pantry in your town. What a great way to share the holiday spirit with the less fortunate! After all, 'tis the season for giving. You should include a Christmas card that the entire family signs (including the kids).

Corporate Cookie Swap Video

Find Christmas Cookie Recipes Online

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