Cookie Exchange Rules & Party Tips for the Holidays

If you love Christmas cookies but don’t have the time to bake every recipe on your list, hosting a Christmas cookie exchange may be the right holiday party idea for you. Luckily, holiday cookie exchanges are simple. There are only a few rules when hosting a successful cookie swap, including providing supplies for guests and sending invitations on time. To help, we’ve provided a holiday guide below on how to plan the perfect cookie exchange this Christmas season.

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1. Guestlist

Before you buy party supplies and send holiday party invitations, take a moment to sit down and organize your guest list. Christmas cookie swap parties usually work best with groups of 8-12 guests. You’ll want to keep your guest list modest so it’s easier to keep track of who’s bringing what. Think of all the bakers, foodies, and festive friends in your group when creating your guest list.

2. Setting a Date

After you’ve compiled your guest list, you can set a date and time for your cookie exchange party. Since these cookies are meant to last throughout Christmas week, you should set a date within 7 days of Christmas. The weekend before Christmas is a popular time to host a cookie swap or you can choose a weeknight if many of your friends have holiday parties to attend on the weekend. The cookie exchange should only last 2-3 hours.
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3. Cookie Exchange Rules

When it comes to setting cookie exchange rules, be as clear as possible so guests know what to expect. Whether you’re letting guests know how many cookies to bake or if they should be homemade, you can include all of the rules on your cookie exchange invites. Here are some cookie exchange rules to consider when planning your party:

  • Cookie Type: Each guest is responsible for bringing a certain kind of cookie for the swap. You can make a rule of cookies only or allow guests to bake bars, scones, and brownies. Either way, do your best to avoid duplicates and make a note of what each guest is bringing. Be sure to let guests know any restrictions or additional rules in your holiday invitations.
  • Cookie Amount: Typically, each participant should bring 7-8 dozen cookies for a successful cookie exchange. It’s important that each guest brings enough cookies so everyone has the opportunity to fill up their box.
  • Recipes: Each guest should provide the recipe for the cookie in advance. The host can then print out the recipes and set them out at the party so guests can take them home with their cookies. The host can also e-mail all of the recipes after the party as an alternative. To keep the cookie swap authentic, remember to let guests know that all of their cookies should be homemade.
  • Trading Cookies: Once it’s time to trade cookies, keep things organized by having guests line up and walk around the table one-by-one to start filling their boxes with cookies.

Christmas gingerbread cookies on wooden table with sugar.

4. Cookie Display

Setting up your cookie swap table is the first priority. From table runners to Christmas decor to mixing and matching plates for the cookies, you can get creative with your display. A large table with a mix of cookie platters, cake stands, and holiday plates makes for the perfect cookie display.

Try using a place card or display card to show the name of each cookiethese labels should be clear and legible. You’ll also want to display the recipe next to each cookie type so guests with allergies are informed before choosing. Don’t forget to cut up a few cookies from each option into smaller pieces and leave out as samples. This way, guests can taste each cookie before adding them to their box.

5. Cookie Packaging Station

When it comes to taking cookies home, you can set up a crafty packaging station where guests can decorate their cookie boxes or tins. You’ll want to supply the basics like cardboard boxes, ribbons, tissue paper, sticky labels, and baking cups to separate cookies. You can also go the extra mile and explore DIY gift wrapping ideas to add some fun to your station. Guests can also bring packaging materials and holiday embellishments so there’s a variety of supplies. Once you’re done you can also use these wrapped cookies as personalized gifts.

6. Food and Drinks

Although your guests are probably prepared for the sugar rush to come, consider providing some food and drinks to help neutralize all of the sweets. Provide plenty of water, milk, and even set up a hot chocolate bar to pair with the cookies. If the cookie swap is during the daytime, you can set out small sandwiches and sides to avoid major clean-up. If you’re hosting a cookie swap during the evening, try a menu of savory appetizers and finger foods. Guests will appreciate a quick break from all of the cookie sampling.

Mother making Christmas cookies with her daughter.

7. Cookie Decorating

Since this is a kid-friendly party, be sure to include a cookie-decorating station to keep younger guests entertained. You can set up a crafty table with plain sugar cookies, icings, holiday placemats, and toppings to make this Christmas party activity come to life. From Christmas themed toppings to sprinkles, you can provide the children with everything they need to make their own mini-box of decorative Christmas cookies. Don’t be afraid to get creative with cookie shapes and try our Corgi Christmas cookie tutorial or Pineapple Christmas cookie tutorial.

Final Thoughts on Christmas Cookie Exchanges

After the cookie exchange, your guests will have a fair share of cookies for themselves or delicious gifts for their own family and friends. And you’ll likely have great new photos to use in your annual Christmas card. Just don’t forget to make a box (or two) of cookies for yourself before the exchange is over.