Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Host a Cookie Exchange

One of my favorite holiday traditions originated with my mother in law. Every year her women's group from church has a giant cookie exchange and inevitably when we visit for the holidays, her basement is FULL of cookie tins, tubs and containers filled with all sorts of goodies! So, inspired by those wonderful goodies, I started hosting my own. Here are two different ways to organize, the way they do it (for a large group) and the way I do it (for a smaller group) and some tips for hosting your own.

I have been hosting my cookie exchange since 2001. In the beginning, the guest list was usually under 10. With such a small group, I asked that everyone make one dozen cookies for each participant and pre-package them on paper plates or in disposable plastic containers. Everyone also make a spare dozen for eating during the party and those were brought in pretty containers to display on the sideboard. At the end of the night, after warm drinks and watching classic claymation programs on the tivo, everyone goes home with a dozen cookies from each guest, more than enough to share with friends and maybe even make up a few packages for the mailcarrier and garbage men.

My standby recipes for cookie exchange night
Wassail Punch-makes the house smell amazing!
Sweet and Sour Faux Meatballs-I make them in the oven, then keep them warm in a large crockpot so everyone can dig int throughout the night.
Cheeseballs! One year, my theme was cheeseballs of all kinds.

In Wisconsin, the women's group is so large that if everyone made a dozen cookies for each participant, you'd need wheelbarrows to haul them there. And to haul them home for that matter! They do things a bit different. (And to tell the truth, the past couple of years, I've done it this way too since it works well if you're not sure exactly how many people are coming and therefore don't know how many dozens to tell people to make.) Everyone makes a set amount of cookies, I think 4 dozen is a good amount but I think up north they make 8. As guests arrive, their cookies are placed on a table together. Once everyone has arrived, the fun begins. I have everyone introduce themselves and their cookie as we surround the table, each with an empty container. At the signal, everyone starts grabbing cookies and rotating around the table so that everyone gets some of each. You keep going around the table until all the cookies have been snatched up.

Have your guests bring recipe cards for their cookie so that everyone not only can make them if they'd like but also know the ingredients in case they have any allergies or have loved ones with allergies.

It's always good, as the hostess, to have some extra plates and cling wrap for people to take their goodies home.

I love paper invitations but Evite is my best friend when it comes to getting people to RSVP because it makes it so easy for them.

Request that when they RSVP that your guests also state what kind of cookie they are thinking of bringing. This keeps you from getting all chocolate chip cookies.

A game of some kind gets your guests to interact with each other, especially if they don't all know each other. Every year we play find the Christmas pickle and those who are returning guests from previous years remember this and it gives them a topic of conversation. The Christmas pickle is a tree ornament that I hide in the tree and whoever finds it wins a prize.

And when the party ends, I love to send my guests home with a handmade favor. I think everyone can use a new ornament for their tree and since your cookie exchange will probably be before Christmas, they'll even get to put it up and enjoy it this year! Here are a couple I've given away, candy cane hobby horses

and polymer clay ribbon candy ornaments.

If you want to have a cookie-themed event but don't want to eat ALL those cookies, consider inviting friends over for a Drop in and Decorate party, the brain child of a wonderful lady named Lydia! We do these at work and the idea is to get together, decorate cookies and then donate your works of art to a local shelter, food pantry or other charity that serves people who could use a pretty cookie to cheer them up. We do this about 4 times a year, because shelters need food all year round, not just at the holidays. Here are some of our spring cookies! Lydia has written a great series of blog posts on how to host an event!


  1. What a fun party, Jenna! Have a great weekend. xo Cat ^..^

  2. That sounds like sooo much fun!! I wish I had enough friends in town to throw one of those!

  3. I love this! I'm going to have to do a cookie exchange.

  4. You are such a wonderful hostess. I look forward to all of your parties. The graduation garden party you did back in high school was so wonderful. Can't wait 'till tomorrow's cookie exchange.

  5. I love all your ideas, Jenna! It sounds like so much fun.