Host an easy and fun Christmas cookie exchange party
This year will mark my 6th annual Christmas cookie exchange. I started the annual tradition as a fun way to connect with friends before the busy holiday season set in, and we ran out of time to get together. I always send out the evite the first week of November, so everyone can save the date. But, I include the most important rule – you don’t have to bake to come! Store bought cookies are fine. Not bringing cookies is ok too, you will get to have fun and taste even though you won’t get to take cookies home. The event is low pressure, because it’s more about the company than the cookies. It’s all about spending time together and eating cookies. That being said, there are only so many cookies I can make and eat in one month, so a cookie exchange is the perfect solution. Each guest goes home with 6-8 of every type of cookie. My family enjoys the variety and I don’t spend all of December baking! Read on to find all my tips and tricks for an easy and fun Christmas cookie exchange party. And don’t worry I’ve included ideas for making your party Covid-safe as well depending on the comfort level of your group.
Need some cookie inspiration? Check out this post from Sorella Vibes.
What you provide as the host
Drinks, I always make sure to have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. You can go simple with a few bottles of wine and some sparkling cider. Or my friends have always enjoyed something warm and sweet like mulled wine or hot apple cider.
Mulled Wine from Simple Joy
Apple Cider, I’ve making this recipe for years. It’s the best made with Trader Joes Spiced Apple Cider, but any cider will do.
1 Bottle Apple Cider (64oz)
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Navel Orange
1 TB Whole Cloves
1/2 cup Brown Sugar (less or more depending on desired sweetness)
Pour entire bottle of apple cider into a stock pot on the stove or crock pot. Cut orange into quarters. Cut a large square of cheese cloth. Place orange, cinnamon stick, and wholve cloves on cheese cloth. Gather up the sides of the cheese cloth to create a pouch. Tie at top to close with bakers twine.
Place cheese cloth pouch directly in cider and press down with spoon to soak. It will still float on the top. If on the stove top bring cider to a simmer, cover, and allow to heat for 1-2 hrs. Cider will be hot so turn off heat about 30 minutes before party. If using a crock pot heat on high for 4 hours, then turn to warm.
Appetizers, I’ve learned a lot after hosting this party for six years, but it’s all trial and error with what your guests will like. I usually try to offer some kind of dip and some easy bites. Spinach and artichoke dip is always a crowd pleaser. I like this healthy version from Skinny Taste. But, after becoming a mommy time got much more limited. Last year I went with a simple cheese board. Trader Joes is the perfect place to pick up everything you need if that’s the route you want to take. I offered 3 kinds of cheese with a cracker assortment. Then added some salami, olive tapenade, and dried apricots. You don’t need anything too sweet for appetizers because you’ll have all the sugar you need from the cookies.
Bags/Containers for cookies, Your guests will need something for all the cookies they are taking home. I got these plastic to-go containers. I like that you can see all the festive cookies inside.
What your guest will need to bring
Cookies of course! About a week before the party I try to get a final head count, so I can give guests an exact amount of cookies that are needed. If you have 5 people, including you, estimate that you’ll want 7 cookies per person that includes the tasting cookie. 5 times 7 is 35, so you’ll want to ask each guest to make 3 dozen or 36 cookies.
How to Host
Before the party make sure to have a table for the cookies. I usually clear the dining room table and move the chairs out into the garage so guests can get around to reach the cookies. I also create cute place cards with the names of each cookie. This way guests don’t have to keep asking what type of cookie they are eating. I also place a stack of the typed up recipes for everyone to take home, so they can make the cookies again. You can also opt to just email out the recipes and save paper. I place the plastic take home containers on a side table for packing up cookies to take home at the end.
A couple hours before the party put any warm drinks in the crock pot to heat. Then put cups and a sharpie out, so everyone can keep track of their cups. Next you’ll need a designated buffet space to put out chosen appetizers, plates, and napkins. Appetizers that need to be heated in a crock pot should be started about an hour before the party. I like to make as much ahead as possible by pre- slicing any cheese, bread, or veggies.
The most important part of any successful party, at least in my humble opinion. I love games! Even with friends who share my competitive spirit we keep it friendly and festive. Scattegories has been a favorite more than one year! I usually go to the dollar store to get cute little prizes for the winners.
Tips on hosting a friendly cookie exchange
I know this year will be different for many of our traditions. With Covid cases spiking again I wanted to share some ideas on how you could go about hosting with minimal contact. It has been found that it is very unlikely that Covid passes through food, so that part of the exchange can proceed. “There is currently no evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” – World Health Organization Read more about that here.
Before the party find a space to set up socially distant seating. Ask guests to bring their own beverage of choice to enjoy during the party. Have guests bring cookies in individual containers or bags equal to the number of guests plus one for tasting. So, if you have 8 people participating each person will have 9 bags of cookies. Have containers or bags to place one bag of each type of cookie for guests to take home. Then take the bag of cookies for tasting and create individual tasting plates. Make sure you wash your hands right before sorting cookies or wear gloves. Then hand one tasting plate to each guest for them to enjoy. Then enjoy a game or two. Charades and Bingo are easy to play socially distant!
The party must go on, is my motto. Even in this season of social distancing we still need time with friends. You can still have a fun and safe time with a few tweaks to your regular tradition. Or start a new tradition to bring together friends for some much needed adult time for mommy!
THIS MOMMY TRIED IT AND YOU CAN TOO!