Whether you’re leaving them out for Santa, dunking them in hot chocolate, or just nibbling them by the fire, cookies are a sweet part of the holiday season. And what better way is there to celebrate than sharing cookies with your friends and family? Throw a colorful holiday cookie swap. Loved ones will enjoy sampling new flavors and sharing their favorite treats — and you’ll love how easily it all comes together. See these tips for making it an event to remember.
Spark creativity with a cookie-decorating station.
Get everyone in the spirit by setting out a tray of homemade holiday sugar cookies for guests to decorate, like this one made by Stephanie Eckman, creator of party supply website, The Party Darling. Add icing-filled condiment bottles and paper cups filled with sprinkles and sanding sugar, then let the decorating fun begin.
Delight everyone with a sweet treat spread.
Welcome guests to a festive cookie buffet, like this one styled by Jamie Bare of crafting website, The Crafting Chicks. To do: Use stencils to trace “Fa La La” on a large white poster board, color in the letters with marker, then hang on a wall. Next, tape patterned-paper party-store fans and lanterns to the wall all around the sign. Push a table underneath, then top with a plaid tablecloth, trays of cookies, and paper plates. Add cute felt Christmas trees, decorative paper gift boxes, and a vibrant snowflake garland to finish.
Make them feel special with adorable award boxes.
At her party, Bare gifted the winners of the cookie competition boxes filled with treats. To make your own, search “Cookie Exchange Award Printables” at TheCraftingChicks.com. There, you can download free printable ribbons to assemble and tape to treat-filled boxes.
Raise a glass to fun with a cookie-kissed cocktail.
This chocolate gingerbread-inspired sip is Christmas bliss in a glass! To do: Start by simmering 2 cups water, one cup milk, and 8 chai tea bags in a pot for 20 minutes; remove bags and chill tea. Dip the rim of a martini glass into maple syrup, then rainbow sprinkles. Add 4 ounces tea and one ounce Kahlúa (for a creamy hint of chocolate) to an ice-filled shaker; shake and strain into a martini glass. Finish by garnishing with one or two gingerbread cookies.
Add fresh, festive charm with a mixed bunch.
A stunning yet simple bouquet of holiday blooms lends a touch of natural beauty to any corner of your party. To do: Fill a 6-inch vase halfway with water. Next, snip a few handfuls of fresh greenery and pine sprigs from your yard to 8-12 inches long, then insert into vase, forming a soft, lush base. Snip a handful of white and red blooms from the grocery store (like red roses, white dahlias, or carnations) to the same lengths; insert stems evenly throughout. To finish, cut a few holly or red berry branches and tuck into bouquet. Display on a tabletop.
Simplify recipe trading with convenient cards.
As loved ones sample cookies, they may find a new favorite to add to their baking list. To make it a breeze for guests to share recipes with one another, Bare kept a box of blank recipe cards and cute Candy Cane Pens (Buy from Oriental Trading, $10 for 12) on her table. To make your own recipe box, brush a coat of decoupage paste on the outside of a small unfinished wood box. Then, smooth cut-to-fit pieces of festive scrapbook paper on the box. Brush another coat of decoupage paste over paper and let dry. Fill with blank recipe cards (to download free printable cards, search “Cookie Exchange Party Recipe Cards” at TheCraftingChicks.com) and place the card-filled box and pens on your treat table.
3 Extra Tips for the Sweetest Day
1. Plan sweets in advance.
Figuring out how many cookies you’ll need depends on the number of guests you’ll have. Generally, you’ll want guests to have at least one or two servings of each cookie, and you’ll want to have enough left over so they can take a few of each type home. As a rule of thumb, ask each guest to bring three to six dozen cookies, and if you think you won’t have enough, keep extra treats on hand as backup.
2. Play festive tunes.
Christmas tunes are sure to make everyone feel merrier at your swap. Simply press “play” on the “Christmas Classics” playlist in the Spotify app. The 70-song list includes favorites like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee and “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. Another option: Search “Christmas playlist” on YouTube.com for a free soundtrack.
3. Rate your favorites.
Turn your cookie swap into a fun bake-off by having guests vote for their favorite treats. As guests arrive, ask them to place their trays of cookies on your buffet. Label each tray with a number and give each guest a paper ballot featuring superlatives like “Best All-Around Cookie” or “Best Decorated Cookie” and have them vote, then tally up the responses and award winning bakers boxes of cookies or cute baking tools from the dollar store.
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A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.