Instead of spending hours baking dozens of different kinds of cookies this holiday season, consider combining your baking talents with your friends’ favorite recipes. Hosting a holiday cookie swap party is a great way to have a wide variety of delicious cookies at all your holiday events without spending too much time and money preparing them. In addition, your holiday cookie swap party will be a fun and tasty way to gain some new recipes and try some new treats. Planning a holiday cookie swap party is fairly simple and results in extra-sweet season’s greetings. We’ll provide you with the tips and tricks necessary to pull off this party.
How to Host a Holiday Cookie Swap
Step One: Invite Your Guests
Make a guest list consisting of anyone you’d like to invite to your holiday cookie swap….friends, family members and colleagues you know will be interested. On your cookie exchange party invitations, make sure you ask each guest to bring a set number of cookies. If you’ll have a small get-together, four dozen cookies will suffice. If you’d prefer a larger party with plenty of variety, ask each person to bring eight to ten dozen of their favorite cookie plus an extra dozen for sampling. The idea is for each guest to go home with at least half a dozen cookies, if not a dozen, of any kind they’re interested in. In addition, make sure each invitation has the following information:
Place, with directions if needed
Cookie specifics – how many to bring as well as any allergy information or dietary restrictions of your guests
RSVP information, including a cut-off date for RSVPs (so you will know how many cookies to expect)
Food being served, if any
Step Two: Get Set to Decorate
Decorating for your holiday cookie swap will be a breeze. Your cookies are the stars of your party, so the cookie table will be the main attraction. Since your party table will be your guests’ primary focal point, you can focus your energy on making it look fabulous. Decorate the rest of your home with subtle holiday decor, and set up a small card table or end table for the rest of your party food so the cookie table doesn’t get too crowded.
Start by creating a centerpiece for your cookie table: a glass jar full of silver ornaments, tea lights floating in a vase or even a cookie tower are all great options. Decorate your table in coordinated colors, such as blue and silver or red and green, to keep it more visually pleasing. Set up coordinated cake stands, large parfait glasses, clear glass bowls and special serving dishes to display the cookies people bring. As your guests arrive and bring the cookies, your cookie table will become fuller and fuller with tasty holiday treats. Also, make sure and stack portable plastic containers (or big plates with plastic wrap) for your guests to use to take home their cookies. If you have the room, set up a cookie packing station.
Gather your favorite Christmas CDs or browse online stores and create a holiday cookie swap playlist. Everything from classic tunes to contemporary hits can be added to the playlist, but definitely don’t leave off “Christmas Cookies” by George Strait!
Step Three: Plan Your Party Food
Since there will be cookies for everyone to sample, planning your holiday cookie swap party menu will be a breeze. Serve a couple of hot beverages, such as coffee or hot cocoa, as well as cold milk for the purists. Stick to simple finger foods like cheese and crackers, veggie trays, meatballs and mini sandwiches- just enough to keep everyone satisfied but not stuffed. If your holiday season will be exceptionally busy, you can always ask your guests to bring a snack or beverage to share.
Step Four: Bake the Cookies
When deciding on a recipe to share with your loved ones at your holiday cookie swap, the easiest thing to do would be to pick your favorite. But keep in mind that your tastes may be more exotic or different than that of your friends. Stick to a recipe guaranteed to please a wide variety of palates. Classic gingerbread cookies with frosting, shortbread, peppermint bars, peanut butter balls and chocolate mint cookies are all tasty options. If you have a well-loved family recipe that everyone craves at Christmas, consider sharing that with your party guests. This slideshow on RealSimple.com features plenty of tantalizing holiday cookie recipes.
Make sure to pick a recipe that you can bake a few days ahead of time and freeze if necessary to avoid any last-minute scrambling. Encourage your guests to make their cookies a day or two ahead of time as well. Fresh cookies are delicious, but they don’t travel very well.
Step Five: Enjoy the Party
As your guests arrive, set up their cookies in an attractive way on your cookie table. Ask them what kind of cookies they’ve baked and label them. Explain that the exchange will begin when everyone arrives and offer them snacks and beverages. Once everyone has arrived, explain how it will work (how many cookies they’re welcome to take and the way you’ll divide up leftovers) and let the cookie sampling begin! After the guests have sampled their cookies, have each one draw a number to determine their order for cookie-snagging so the table doesn’t get too crowded. If you’d like, you can give every guest a ballot and have them vote on their favorite cookie, awarding the winner a small prize. Here are some other ideas to make your holiday cookie swap party even better:
- Create a small door prize such as an oven mitt filled with kitchen utensils, a cookie sheet and muffin tins, or a gift card to a favorite local store. Give every guest a raffle ticket and draw the winning number out of a hat during the party.
- Have each guest bring enough copies of their cookie recipe so that each guest can have one. During the party, bind the recipes with ribbon (with a pretty cover you make ahead of time) and give everyone a mini cookie recipe book. Your loved ones will appreciate the gesture, especially if they want to make more of their favorite cookies.
- Ask everyone to share a special holiday memory. This can be a funny story from childhood, something heartwarming they’ve witnesses or the special memory that’s tied to the cookies they decided to share.
- Play some holiday trivia and test your guests’ knowledge of traditions and pop culture.
Enjoy your holiday cookie swap party and the sweet treats that follow!