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Christmas cookie exchanges

Getting friends together over the holidays can be a struggle! Hosting a party that’s good for adults and kids, figuring out if you’re doing presents or not, even scheduling something that everyone can attend can be a real challenge as the years go by. 

Why not bring back the cookie exchange? It’s low-stress, a great opportunity to teach your kids how to bake, and can be organized either as a quick drop-off event or a fun gathering opportunity – either way, it’s a simple way to share the love with friends and family in a low-stress, low-commitment (but highly delicious) way. 

Instead of sweating through baking five or six separate cookie recipes to have available for Christmas gatherings, you only have to pick your favorite. Everybody else makes their favorite recipe, too, and then you trade cookies. You’ll end up with a variety of treats to enjoy or share without nearly as much stress, and everybody participating gets the gift of cookies from one another this year. 

Planning and coordinating a good cookie exchange can be a stumbling point! Before you begin, make sure you do the math, pick your participants and recipes wisely, and account for allergies and food preferences.

The Math

A good rule of thumb for cookie or baking exchanges is that every participant should provide six cookies per participant (including themselves). If you have ten participants, for example, every guest should bring five dozen cookies – everyone goes home with ten different types of cookies and five dozen in total. That’s plenty to enjoy and share! 

If you’d like to make your cookie exchange into a holiday party, ask each participant to bake a few extra so there’s cookies for everyone to enjoy and taste together. Don’t forget to provide a copy of your recipe (or the ingredient list at least if the recipe is a family secret!) 

You’ll need to pick a recipe that scales well. Most Christmas cookie recipes yield two to three dozen cookies, so depending on how many participants you have, you’ll probably need to double or even triple your recipe. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids some kitchen math and include them in the preparation! Work together to multiply each ingredient and practice important math skills like adding fractions. (Not sure you’ve got the math right? Before you break out the cooking tools, you can always double check by using a website or app to help). 

The Plan

Depending on how many friends and family members you have locally and the time and space you have available for your exchange, you’ll want to recruit between five and 15 participants. Too few participants means you won’t have many cookies to enjoy, but too many can lead to an overwhelming number of cookies to bake (and eat)! I feel the ideal exchange party has around eight to ten participants (that’s four to five dozen cookies), but everyone is different.

Your first step should be confirming your participant list and what type of cookie everybody will make this year. The whole point of a cookie exchange is to get a variety – you don’t want to end up with five dozen chocolate chip cookies. Most of the time everyone will bring their favorite recipe (with a little compromise to avoid duplication), but an alternate method to help those who don’t bake regularly is for the host to find enough tried-and-true cookie recipes for all participants and have everyone select one at random. Organizing who is baking what is made easier by having a spreadsheet, group chat or shared document that everyone can contribute to. 

Make sure to have all participants share any special needs their household may have such as allergies, dietary preferences, religious restrictions or gluten sensitivities. You want to make sure that everyone ends up with cookies their family can enjoy.

The Exchange

Once the planning is out of the way, the rest of the cookie exchange is easy. The host should make sure to check in with participants as the exchange approaches to make sure everyone is still able to bring their cookies and attend. 

The exchange itself can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. One option is to make your exchange part of a larger holiday party, enjoying each other’s company (maybe with some festive beverages) while you taste test one another’s cookies. Everyone gets to take home their new batch of cookies at the end of the event. 

If schedules don’t allow for a party that everyone can attend, each participant can drop off their cookies ahead of time for the host to package up and distribute later. 

Beyond the Cookie

This format works great for lots of different types of exchange. Swap frozen meals, soup, holiday beverages, even charcuterie board components – the concept is the same. Everybody brings enough servings for each participant and then you mix and match to end up with a variety that can be enjoyed throughout the holiday season. 

No matter what you choose to swap, exchanges are a great way to share with the people you care about this holiday season. Enjoy! 

Trista is a stay-at-home mom and loves to share her discoveries about how to make life in Calgary work for families of all kinds.


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