Make a Holiday Cookie Exchange a New Tradition

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Tis the season for cookies!  And, if you put together a holiday cookie exchange, you can enjoy a dozen different varieties of cookies without all the work! 

Sure, you have to make a lot of the cookie you decide to make for the party, but it’s so much easier to make dozens of just one cookie versus one dozen of twelve different cookies, don’t you agree?

I am on my third, and each year we all get a little better at it.  We have all learned what cookies travel best, how to get our recipes to each other and how to best package our cookies to give them away!

If you’d like to host a cookie exchange this year, here are some tips from me.

Start by determining a date and time.  I like to have the exchange early to mid month so the cookies are available for holiday parties and visiting guests.  I arrange for people to arrive around 11:30 so we can enjoy a nice lunch together.

Draw up your guest list.Each year the list has grown a bit, however at twelve guests this year, each person will need to bring enough cookies for eleven people.  I think that is plenty.  You also need to consider seating for that number of people and the food you will serve.  These considerations will help you to keep your number down!

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Design your menu.  This could be trickier than you think.  Depending on who you invite, you may have to keep dietary restrictions in mind.  I made Corn Chowder last year and two of the ladies couldn’t eat corn because of their digestive systems, so fortunately I had a carton of butternut squash soup on hand and things were fine.

Send out an early detailed invitation.  A cookie exchange requires a lot of detailed information.  Your guests need to know what is required of them to attend the party and exchange cookies.  For some, it may be too much work, others will love the entire process, and there will be some that just go overboard!  Thank heaven for them, they make the party a great success and urge others to step it up next year!

Here is the letter I sent out last year just to give you an idea of the type of information that everyone will need.

It’s  A Cookie  Exchange!
Hi Everyone! Here are some important details about this year’s cookie exchange.

*I’ll be serving lunch and we’ll sample cookies for dessert!

*Bring at least 6 cookies per person, currently there will be 8 people besides you at the party. In addition, please bring one dozen for sharing at the party.  Total number of cookies to bring: 60 (I am making Spritz cookies so I will have more than 6 cookies per person because mine are small!)

*Fill out the recipe card enclosed with your cookie recipe and bring it to the party.  We will display it with your dozen cookies to share and I will copy them for everyone to take home.

*Please bring your cookies pre-portioned in little bags, in small boxes, or wrapped on paper plates for taking home. You will need 8 packages of 6 cookies plus your dozen to display and share at the party.  Pre-packaging will eliminate mixing up cookie flavors, dropping or breaking cookies. 

*Please let me know what type of cookie you are baking so we don’t have duplicates. Thank you and looking forward to seeing you all soon!

My Address:
My Phone Number:
Choose your cookie.  My mother, my daughter and I have poured through booklets on Christmas cookies, old time recipes, magazines and the internet for good cookie recipes.  However, I will say that the ones that may look the most interesting aren’t always the ones that taste the best.  We tried several that were difficult to create like a twisted dough candy cane.  They tasted fine, but some were thick, some thin, some more flat than others and they didn’t make a very good presentation.

Some guests transported their cookies in large containers and quite a few of them were broken when they arrived because they were brittle or crumbly.  So your cookie choice is very important.  It needs to look good and taste great!

Most of my guests either e-mailed their cookie choice to me or phoned it in.   I haven’t had a duplicate yet and probably won’t but it’s a good idea to ask them before hand so you don’t have doubles!

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Decorate for the party.  It’s the holiday season anyway so you probably have decorations up already.  If not, this is good reason to get up some garland, table top trees, wreaths and more.  Consider at least dressing a pretty holiday table.  Last year I kept mine fairly plain simply because I wanted the conversation and cookies to be the star!

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Make room for cookies.  Find a place in your home to display all of the lovely cookies.  Remember, you will receive boxes or bags of cookies to exchange with the group and there may also be a plate of each variety to share for dessert!

Consider how you are going to wrap your packages for giving.  There are so many different ways to package your cookies.

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I have used pretty holiday colored boxes with snowflake seals and tags to write the cookie name on…

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…printed cellophane bags with twist ties are always a nice way to send your goodies home with your friends…

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…inexpensive plastic containers work very well too and at the holidays they often come with holiday colored tops!

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Even holiday lunch bags which are less expensive than gift bags make for a very festive presentation!

1party9Take pictures!  This may be the toughest thing to accomplish because no one wants to stop talking to pose for a picture!  But I promise everyone will want a copy of it once you show them how beautiful they all looked!

This was taken just before we got started with lunch.  Of course lunch was wild with conversation and laughing and just having a good ol’ time.  What is interesting is that after a couple years of hosting a party, many of your guests will get to know each other and this is a time for catching up on all the activities that have happened in the past year!

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Leave time to tell a cookie story! I don’t know about you, but just about every time I cook something, there is a story to tell!  So, go around the table and let each person tell a funny story about their cookie, tell why they chose it, or any tips on getting it just right.  At this time, pass their extra plate of cookies around the table and let everyone taste test! Here I am being a goof but showing off the new cookie press I just bought for the occasion!

Party Gifts.  Of course this isn’t necessary, but I did decorate a small table top tree with cookie cutters and let my guests choose a couple on the way out!  This year I am making chocolate and peppermint candy that is poured into cookie cutters to give it a pretty shape.

Last but not least – THE RECIPES!  Probably the most important piece of the cookie exchange is to get the recipes for all the tasty treats!  I have done this several different ways and I’m fondest of the second way.  Year one, everyone wrote their recipe out about six additional times on recipe cards and then just placed them by their tray of cookies. When we all went around the table to grab our share of each cookie, we would take one of the recipe cards.  This actually worked out quite nicely.
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Year two, I had everyone either mail or e-mail me their recipe.  I then retyped them in interesting fonts and colors and printed them on Christmas stationery.  I slid the stationery into plastic sleeves and created a little booklet of recipes. The day of the party, we took a picture of the group and I scanned it and printed several copies so everyone could attach it to the front page of the recipe booklet. This did take some time, but it was worth it!

Last year, everyone brought their recipes with them and I simply copied them on my copy machine and handed everyone sheets of paper as they left.  I felt that this was slacking on my part and so this year it’s back to the booklet idea with some modifications I’m sure!

I know as you are reading through this you are thinking, “What a lot of trouble!” It is quite a project, but I have found over the years that for anything to turn out wonderful, it takes effort, time, patience and love.  And, all of those things go into a cookie exchange.  I promise if you try it you’ll want to do it every year!

Have fun!

Shari

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