How to Plan a Stress-Free Christmas Cookie Exchange

Gather your neighbors, friends, co-workers or cousins for the most epic Christmas cookie exchange ever. These tips and timeline will make you the host with the most!

Holiday gift platter filled with homemade cookies and candies ready for giftingPhoto: Teri Virbickis / Shutterstock

Ask any home baker about favorite Christmas traditions, and an annual cookie exchange—aka cookie swap—just may top the list. These parties save you time in the kitchen (you only have to bake one type of cookie!) while offering a chance to gather with family and friends. Hosting a cookie exchange is easier than you might think, thanks to these timely tips (these, too!) and handy timeline to keep party planning on the right track.

  • Make it convenient. Weekday evenings or weekend afternoons work well because people may be less busy. Schedule the party to be about 2 hours long so guests aren’t required to set aside a lot of time. It’s the holiday season, after all!
  • Remember: the more, the merrier—and the more types of cookies and candies you’ll get. Invite 8 to 12 people. You might also encourage them to bring an extra dozen for sampling at the party.
  • Ask what each person is making to avoid duplicates. There’s no point to the exchange if everyone arrives with sugar cookies.
  • Stock up on storage containers. If the gathering is small, guests may want to bring the batches already individually wrapped.
  • Keep your menu to a minimum by focusing on the sweet treats. Simply serve a selection of beverages and the extra cookies and candies. Of if you prefer, offer a few hot and cold appetizers.
  • Display all the goodies on a long table or counter, leaving enough room for folks to walk around. Label the containers with the recipe name.
  • For party favors, gather all the different recipe cards into bundles, tie with festive ribbons and hand them out as guests leave.

Cookie and Candy Exchange Timeline

Four to Six Weeks Before:

  • Send out the invitations. Ask each person to bring 8 to 10 dozen of the same cookie, copies of their recipe and large containers in which to take cookies home.
  • As guests RSVP, keep track of who is bringing what so there are no duplicates. Remind them to bring copies of their recipe to share.

Two to Three Weeks Before:

The Day Before:

  • Make any food you plan on serving. Gather plates and napkins.
  • Set up the table where the cookies will be displayed.

The Day of the Party:

  • As guests arrive, have them set their cookies and copies of the recipe on the display table.
  • Serve food and beverages, and enjoy the company!
  • Near the end of the party, have guests fill their containers with a dozen of each kind of cookie and candy.
Stumped on what cookies to bake? This'll help.
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Ellie Martin Cliffe
Now Taste of Home's content director, Ellie has been writing about food and parenting for almost 20 years. When she isn't at TOH HQ, she's likely trying gluten- and dairy-free recipes, canning whatever's in season, listening to anything with a fiddle, or playing Forbidden Island with her family.