How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange

A step by step guide to organizing a holiday cookie exchange.

‘Tis the season for family and friends, glad tidings and sweet indulgences. And what better way to sample a variety of goodies and spend some time with our friends and loved ones than to host a cookie exchange.

These festive parties do take some coordination so let me help you make it easier for you by following these easy steps. 

First, you’ll want to pick a date.  In this busy holiday season many people will have lots of commitments so you should pick a date early in December or perhaps one on a weeknight. You may even choose to wait until after New Year, allowing you to look forward to an event in the cold and frozen “dog days” of winter.  I find that a Sunday afternoon is best but a Friday night can be fun too depending on your schedule.

Next, you need to figure out the “rules”.   You must decide if you want to allow just cookies or if you will open it up to bars or other goodies.  Do you want to exclude “no bake” cookies?  Do you want it purely homemade?  You need to be specific on your invitation whatever you decide to do.  You don’t want someone getting upset because they spent hours creating and perfect cookie creation while another went to Sam’s Club and bought theirs.  

You’ll also want to figure out how many cookies you should make. Many sources say to count on one dozen per guest but I find that leaves you with way too many to make and way more to eat than possible (unless you have a cookie monster in your household).  A half dozen per guest is a good guideline to follow with an extra dozen from each guest for sampling at the party. 

Most importantly don’t forget to tell your guests to bring copies of their recipe. One of the highlights of the cookie exchange is finding your new favorite recipe from others.

To add some whimsical fun to the event, consider things like having guests wear an ugly Christmas sweater, bring a wrapped ornament to exchange or a White Elephant gift, or a wrapped  gift to donate to a local charity.  Be sure to specify the dollar amount for your guests.   It is fun to also have prizes for the best cookie, most creative cookie or even most colorful or “obnoxious” holiday sweater.

Once you have the details in place you need to get the word out with as much advanced notice as you can.  If the traditional snail mail invitation is too time consuming, consider sending a free Evite invitation or create an event on Facebook. With either option you can ask everyone to post what type of cookie they will be bringing to avoid duplicates.  Be sure to tell your guests to bring a container or platter for bringing all their goodies home.

Finally, you will want to decide what food and drink to serve at your party.   I say keep it as simple as possible for yourself.   Providing a couple munchies like a cheese and cracker platter (warmed brie with crackers and sliced apples is one of my favorites) and/or chips and dip works well.  For drinks, you can serve wine, hot chocolate, coffee or make a festive punch.   

Now light the fireplace, play some holiday music and enjoy some special bonding time with friends and family while eating delicious cookies!   And finally if you find there are too many cookies laying around the house, take them to a homeless shelter or a domestic violence shelter and spread some joy to others. 

For more ideas and inspiration, check out my “Cookie Exchange Holiday” board on Pinterest.


Lisa Scott is the owner of Tiny Treats by Lisa, a home-based baking business specializing in miniature desserts and unique confections.  You can also find Tiny Treats by Lisa on Facebook.

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