How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange
Planning Tips, Printable Tags, Activity Ideas & More for Your Cookie Swap Party
December 22 is National Cookie Exchange Day – celebrate with family and friends by hosting a cookie swap party. Here’s all you need to know to plan your holiday cookie event.
What is a Cookie Exchange?
The concept of a cookie exchange is simple. Ask every guest to make a different cookie to trade. Each person brings a dozen identical cookies for each guest, plus a dozen to share at the party. For example, if you have 9 attendees plus yourself, each person will make a total of 10 dozen cookies – 9 to trade with the other attendees and 1 dozen to share at the party. Then, everyone leaves with 9 dozen assorted cookies to share, eat, or give as gifts! (Pro Tip: Use SignUp so guests can easily RSVP and share what type of treat they’ll be making for the cookie swap.)
Steps for Planning a Cookie Exchange
1. Make a Game Plan
Be realistic with the guest list. This isn’t the type of party you want to invite the whole neighborhood to. ;) Try to keep your guest list to 10 guests or less since each attendee is asked to bring a dozen holiday treats for each guest attending, plus an additional dozen for sampling during the party. Twenty dozen treats is a big ask.
Choose a date that is close enough to the holidays so the cookies will last, but not so late that you get caught up in the last-minute holiday rush.
Decide what types of drinks to serve (think coffee, tea, hot chocolate, mulled cider, or eggnog) and if you want to provide food in addition to the treats, or if you want to ask people to bring a savory snack along with their holiday treats.
Determine if you want the guests to bring their cookies already portioned (one dozen per bag/container) or if you want to provide inexpensive containers or bakery boxes for each guest to fill up at the party. For a more environmentally-friendly option, ask each guest to bring his or her own cookie tins.
2. Share the Details
Send invitations at least 10 days in advance to allow people to plan – no one wants to hear "You need to bake ten dozen cookies" at the last minute!
Be sure to include a list of clear instructions such as:
Number of cookies to bring
Dress code (maybe you want to have a holiday pajama party?)
Other needed details (such as where to park)
Any “party rules” such as home-baked goods only, strictly cookies, or anything goes (bars, candies, or brownies are welcome).
Use SignUp to organize everything in one easy-to-use service. Participants can sign up on their smartphone or computer, receive automatic reminders about the party, and reveal the name of the treat they are bringing. There shouldn’t be any duplicate recipes! Remember, the object of the party is that everyone takes home nine (or however many) sets of one-dozen holiday goodies.
3. Pre-Party Prep
Decorations don’t have to be fancy and expensive (and you may already have this covered since it’s holiday time). Fill a vase with Christmas balls or pine cones, stack fir and pine cuttings, and hang pine cones tied with red ribbon from your mantle or shelves, or make a few snowman hat centerpieces for the tables.
Make sure to have enough platters for each treat that is to be shared during the party (plus tongs). Your local dollar store is a great resource for inexpensive decorative platters. These platters could also be used for each guest to take their “to go” cookies home at the end of the party.
Pick up the needed party supplies.
On party day, set up either two smaller tables or one large table with enough platters to hold each guest's contributions. If space is tight, mix in a few different height cake stands to help fit everything on the table.
Borrow some card tables from friends if you don’t have enough tabletop space.
Make sure you have plenty of places for people to sit down. Borrow some folding chairs, if needed.
Set up a drink station away from the cookie stations to avoid a logjam of people in one area.
Place trash cans strategically around the party area.
Don’t forget the ambiance! Create a playlist and ask guests to add their suggestions or go to a streaming site like Spotify and choose a curated station that matches your musical style.
4. Label it
Set up display cards in front of each item that lists the name of the recipe and who prepared it. Make sure the dishes that contain nuts are clearly marked. Click here for cute PRINTABLE DISPLAY CARDS that alert guests to common allergens.
It’s tradition for each guest to provide the recipe for their treat in advance. Use these holiday-themed RECIPE CARDS to print out the recipes to send home with the treats.
Have some blank labels and Sharpies available for people to label their items.
5. Don’t Forget the Kids!
If you decide to include children in the party, create a few kid-friendly stations to keep them entertained while the adults mingle.
Set up a cookie-decorating station – a child-sized table stocked with undecorated sugar or gingerbread cookies in festive shapes and various icings, sprinkles, and candies. Put out parchment paper with each child’s name so they can keep track of their cookies. Get some craft paper to tape down under and around the table to keep the mess to a minimum.
On another table provide washable crayons and markers, print out some cute holiday themed coloring pages, or cover the table with some craft paper for the kid to decorate to their heart's content. Just skip the glitter, unless you want to keep sweeping it up until June!
Arrange an area with a tv and some pillows on the floor for kids (and adults) to watch favorite holiday movies, and provide popcorn, movie candy, and juice boxes.
After the party, all of your guests will have a wonderful selection of holiday treats to eat or to use as gifts for their own family and friends. Download these free printable COOKIE GIFT TAGS and have them available for your guests to take home. Plus your guests will get a cute keepsake bundle of recipes to ensure they can make their favorite treat again next year. And, just maybe, you will start a fun cookie exchange tradition that will create lifelong memories.