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How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange

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After attending nearly 20 cookie exchanges, and hosting 3, I’ve become a pro at How to Host a Cookie Exchange! From sending invitations to delicious cookie recipes, I have every detail covered!

Old-Fashioned Amish Sugar Cookies stacked on a white plate

Amish Sugar Cookies

How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange

Setting up a timeline for hosting a cookie swap is key. The first thing you must do is determine the rules. If you don’t mind guests bringing storebought cookies, that’s fine, but make it clear if only homemade or semi-homemade are allowed.

Chewy Gingersnaps on a white plate

Chewy Gingersnap Cookies

Here are some things to consider for your Cookie Swap:

  • Determine your guest list. If you have a friend who doesn’t like to cook or bake, he/she might not be the best participant.
  • 10-20 guests is a manageable number, but one of my girlfriends would host an annual cookie exchange with 50+ guests. She had it down to a science!
  • Find a date and time that works best for you and your friends. We go out to lunch before or after the actual exchange of cookies, so we generally meet in the late morning of a weekday. An evening exchange may be better for you and your guests.
  • Very clearly state what is considered an acceptable cookie to bring to the cookie exchange. We prefer homemade over store-bought, and candies like fudge are also welcome. Festive cookies are best but we have never specified that cookies like chocolate chip are forbidden.
  • Once you have your group selected, decide how many cookies each attendee must bring. 
  • We have a group of 12, so enough cookies for 11 are needed. If each guest is to take home 3 of each cookie, they need to bring 33 cookies. The number of cookies to bake is totally up to you, but make it clear to your guests. Simple math will help you with this number.
  • Ask your guests to bring a plate or tray to display their cookies plus a container to bring their cookies home. You can also provide bakery-style boxes and paper for your guests. You may be able to purchase these from a local bakery or find at craft stores like Michaels or JoAnn Fabrics.
  • Purchase place cards, or make some at home, to label each kind of cookie.
  • Decide whether you’d like your guests to bring copies of their recipe to share. Note this on the invitation.
  • We rotate the hostess every year. At the end of the cookie exchange, we like to inquire if anyone would like to host the following year.
Stained Glass Cookies in a white bowl

Stained Glass Cookies

What Do You Serve at a Cookie Exchange?

Your menu depends on the time of day of your cookie swap. Since we go out to lunch, coffee, tea, and light refreshments are all that is needed. Pumpkin bread, a coffee cake, muffins, and even mulled cider are nice. If serving lunch, think about a simple quiche and green salad. No need for dessert with all the cookies! If entertaining in the evening, have some appetizers, wine and soft drinks available.

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies stacked on a small round white plate

Holiday Pinwheel Cookies

Timeline for Your Cookie Exchange

  • One month ahead: Send out a detailed invitation with time, date, and specific instructions for your cookie swap. Include the parameters of what kind of cookies to bring, the number of cookies to bring, whether to provide copies of the recipe and other supplies needed like a container to bring cookies home.
  • Two weeks ahead: Start planning your menu, your cookies, and buy supplies like boxes, paper plates, napkins, name tags, etc.
  • One week ahead: Decorate your home, buy your cookie ingredients, pick out some festive music to have playing in the background. Determine a day to bake your cookies, depending on how perishable they are.
  • The day before the cookie exchange: Set your table, clear space for all the cookies to be displayed, set out plates, cups, napkins, prepare snacks, appetizers, lunch dishes that can be made in advance. Of course, you can buy any dish you’d prefer not to make yourself.
  • The day of the event: Set out food, make coffee, set up the teapot, set out place cards for cookie names and name tags, if needed, with a pen.
Cranberry, White Chocolate, Crystallized Ginger Cookies on a square white plate with fresh cranberries

Cranberry White Chocolate Crystallized Ginger Cookies

More of the Best Holiday Cookie Recipes:

Between my yearly cookie exchanges and baking holiday cookies for my friends and neighbors, I’ve collected loads of tasty Christmas Cookie Recipes. Here are some more of our favorites!

Best sigar cookies on a white plate

Best Sugar Cookies with Frosting 

Have you hosted or been to a cookie exchange? How was it run? Do you have any tips? Please let me know in the comments!

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8 comments on “How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange”

  1. wow lots of festive and beautiful cookies! Have never hosted a cookie exchange party…sounds like lots of fun and deliciousness.

  2. This is some great advice for a cookie exchange. I haven’t participated in one of these for years. Sounds wonderful and your recipes would be my go to’s for sure!

  3. Your cookies are gorgeous, like a centerpiece for the table I just adore those holiday Christmas trees

  4. This sounds like so much fun and your cookies are gorgeous. I want to try them all.
    Amalia
    xo

  5. I’ve never either hosted or attended a cookie exchange event (Not sure if this ever happens – it doesn’t appear a popular thing in Canada), but I did enjoy reading this “manual”. After all, having attended and hosted around 20 cookie exchanges, you’re clearly the pro! Festive photos, too!

  6. Dear Liz, love all your wonderful and helpful advice with respect to cookie excanges. And your recipes are absolutely wonderful – so many festive and delicious cookies to chose from, one more fabulous than the other!
    Thank your for sharing all your ideas – what a fun post to start off the month of December!

  7. Liz, this is such a fabulous guide for a cookie party/exchange. I’ve never hosted one, but have been to many. Bookmarking this in case it’s ever at my house. 🙂 ~Valentina

  8. I love going to cookie exchanges Liz.  They are always so much fun and YUMMY!  You certainly provided a great guide for hosting a cookie exchange! 
    Have a wonderful holiday season,
    Roz

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