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!
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.
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 Teas2Dine4.com:
You Are Invited To A Tea & Cookie Exchange Party!
Theme: Cookies & Tea
Attire: Festive! Dress comfortably and in theme.
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______________.
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.
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!
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).