How To Host A Holiday Cookie Exchange

Simplify your holiday baking by hosting a holiday Cookie Exchange!  Invite a group of friends and have each bring one kind of their favorite holiday cookie to share.  At the party, everyone trades and ends up with a whole lot of different delicious holiday cookies.  Along with new recipes!

How to host a Holiday Cookie Exchange Party!  Lots of tips and ideas!

My Levi and I moved into our very first little apartment, over 20 years ago.  He was only 18 months old at the time and I was barely 18.  But, I remember wanting to share with all of our new neighbors some holiday baked goods. (Yes, even at that young age!)  I had baked a whole lot of everything holiday related for almost a full week, that first year!  Just so I could share a variety of deliciousness on one plate.  It was a lot of work, to say the least!  But, I would continue to do it through all the years.

Now fast forward to many years later:  I was becoming a bit exhausted of having choosing to bake all week for my astonishing neighbors and friends.  In 2006, I decided to include all of them, instead!  We all baked our favorite kind of holiday cookie and traded, then shared the recipes.  And, have been doing this ever since! 

I want to share with you everything of what I’ve learned through the years of hosting a Cookie Exchange (also known as a Cookie Swap) party.  I personally call it my Cookie Party.  Call it whatever your heart desires.  And, make it whatever kind of cookie party you want.  You CAN host a fun and fabulous cookie party of your own!  Here are some ideas that I have learned from experience through the years.

What is a Holiday Cookie Exchange?

  • It is a chance to get all of your friends and neighbors together to celebrate the holidays…while sharing cookies and new recipes!
  • Each guest bakes one of their favorite cookie recipes.  You decide how many you want each person to bring.
  • During this busy season, you have a large variety of homemade baked cookies to give out as gifts.

Make a Date and Invite Guests!

  • Go digital to save money and time.  Evite or Facebook is great!
  • How many do you want to invite?  You could go big or small.  (I started with the neighborhood…then it went to half the town!  Including my friends from other counties came all the way!)  You may always start with a few of your friends and/or just family.  Even the non-bakers love to join.  It is fun for everyone!
  • Request your guests to make ‘nut-free’ cookies.  Allergies may be a concern with the other families.
  • How many cookies do you want each guest to bring?  That is up for you to decide.  For 6 or more guests, ask them to bring SIX DOZEN cookies of the same cookie recipe.  Just remember, (and remind them) when they bring that many of the same cookies, they leave with 6 dozen different cookies.  I’ve had more than 25 guests one year and had each person bring 8 dozen cookies so there was more than 2 or more of the same cookie they got to bring home.  (More to sample, right?)

How to Host a Cookie Exchange Party!  Lots of tips and ideas! #cookies #cookbooks

The Art of the Cookie is a great cookie cookbook for inspiration.  

Guidelines or Rules for Guests to Follow

All of your guests want some kind of guidance!  Some are pros and some are baking for the first time.  Usually, you get someone that breaks the rules, but it’s okay.  As long as you let all of your guests know what you expect, it will all go smoothly.  ALL of you will have an amazing assortment of home baked cookies!

Time to Bake Cookies

  • Bake a pretty cookie.  Even just a drop cookie can be pretty with drizzles of chocolate or dusted with powdered sugar.  Colorful holiday sprinkles are fun, too.
  • It is best to bake your cookies a few days before the swap.  Lay each cookie out on a flat surface to cool completely (and to dry the moisture out just a little) before putting in an air tight container.  Try to maintain the freshness for the big day!  You may even freeze the dough already in individual scoops and thaw right before baking.
  • Keep in mind a cookie that is easy for freezing and  for your guests transporting home.  A meringue kind of cookie or bar, does not work very well in situations like this.  A cookie that can be stacked on top of another is to keep in mind.
  • Cookie size?  This is totally optional.  But, something I’ve learned through the years of hosting, some guests may want to squeeze in the 6 whole dozen by using the recipe once.  Depending upon the cookies they choose, the recipe may be doubled or tripled to make the amount needed for the trade.  I was beginning to feel they were ‘sample cookies’, instead of regular cookie size.  I personally like a decent sized cookie.  I decided to have everyone participate in making the same size cookies– 3 inches.  It turned out amazing and I was beyond thrilled!

Here are a great bunch of cookie ideas and fabulous recipes!
Follow Simply Gloria Cookie Haven on Pinterest


Prepare to Host

  • Decorations.  Simply have your party area decorated with your holiday decor.  It really fills the atmosphere with holiday spirit.  Even by adding a string of holiday lights across the tops of the room, makes it fun.
  • When your guests arrive with their many cookies, have them set up ALL of the cookies on a designated area on the table(s).  This makes it easier for every one to go around the table when it is time to collect cookies from each section.  
  • Make labels to set in front of the cookies.  This is purely an extra.  But it helps your guests know what all the cookies are!  It is also helpful when it is time for your guests to start the voting process.
  • Provide a festive drink, tea, or coffee.  Hot cocoa has always been fun, too!
  • Also, provide food/appetizers for your guests while they are eye balling all of those cookies before the trade!  You may choose whether you want your guests to taste the cookies or not at all.  This is why I have other sweet treats to keep them away from the displayed cookies.  Depending upon your budget, you may serve some light appetizers, other sweets, or even a meal.  (Baked potatoes with all the fixings has always been a hit.)  Besides, food and drinks keep your guests entertained while the others are setting up their cookie displays.

Casting the Votes

  • Give your guests voting ballets for the categories to vote.  Have someone else take and count the votes while you are still hosting.  Get ready to announce the big winners and hand out prizes!  
  • Category for prizes and/or winner ribbons.  You may choose few or all of the following as a guidance to your prize givings.  All of your guests will vote on all the cookies, except their own.

How to Host a Cookie Exchange Party!  Lots of tips and ideas! #cookies #cookbookAnother favorite cookie cookbook of  mine, Cookies, Cookies, and More Cookies!

Prize Categories

  • Most Amazing Display
  • Prettiest Cookie
  • Most Unique Cookie
  • Most Outrageous Holiday Outfit
  • Door Prize (Ask each guest to bring ONE cookie cutter.  Collect all of the cookie cutters and give them away as a prize!)

Idea Prizes  

  • Cookie Cookbook
  • Cookie jar
  • Cookie baking sheet
  • Cookie cooling racks
  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon and/or spatula
  • Measuring cups and/or spoons
  • Cookie cutter(s) 
  • Cookie sprinkles
  • Cookie scoops
  • Pretty apron
  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment paper
  • Oven mitts

Charity/Donations.  While you are already having your group of guests coming, ask them to bring gently used (or new) winter clothing and donate them to a local shelter.  OR food for your local food bank.  Optional Drawing for a prize:  for every piece of winter clothing or food, have them write their name on a paper for a drawing to win a prize.  Have a designated area for your guests to put them in. 

 Time to Exchange ~ Swap ~ Trade Cookies!

  • Take a moment to ask each of guests to share a story of the cookie recipe they brought, or their adventures of baking them.  Also, your guests may love to share some of their family holiday traditions.  This gives the others new ideas for their families!
  • Time to trade and exchange the cookies!  I hand each of my guests a large aluminum disposable (Turkey roasting) pan– found at any kind of dollar store.  I line each of them with holiday decorated tissue paper.  Have the plastic wrap at the end for them to cover all of their cookies.  In the past, when I have asked them to bring their own container, all of the cookies usually do not fit.  Having a lined disposable pan ready for each guest, allows them to gently pack their many different size, shapes, and flavors of cookies home.
  • Have your guests line around the cookie table with their large *pan* ready to fill.  Every one should be able to grab 3 (or 6) cookies from each recipe.  If there are extra cookies, circle the table once more.  Each guests will end up with the same amount as they came with.  (My favorite is watching every one’s faces filled with so much joy as they’ve gathered so many different cookies!)
  • Have a package of plastic wrap or foil at the end of the line for them to cover their cookies for their drive home.

How to Host a Cookie Exchange Party for the #holidays! Tips and Ideas! #Cookies

This long table of cookies is only HALF of the cookies that were at last year’s cookie party.  I wanted to show you how you can encourage some of your guests to stack their cookies in a tier form.  Saves a lot of room on the table(s)! 

Saying Good-bye to your Guests

  • As your guest leave with all of those cookies, this is when I like to give them a party favor.  What usually goes with cookies?  Milk!  (At least for some of us.)  I have the cold beverages sitting outside or near the front door in a (hidden) cooler.  So, as they are heading out the door, they get a nice surprise to take home with their cookies!  Idea:  I have given out eggnog with a cookie cutter tied to it with a cute holiday ribbon.  (Or minus the cookie cutter and just tie a holiday ribbon on the eggnog itself.)  
  • Don’t forget the recipes every one has handed you in the beginning!  You may assign someone to staple them all together earlier in the party.  Put them next to the door and hand them out as they leave.

I hope you find all of this information very helpful on your journey of planning a holiday Cookie Exchange party!  If you are just pondering of such a gathering… take some bits and pieces from my experiences of hosting this kind of party and make them your own.  

Sometimes, I have to admit it gets a little overwhelming.  But, planning is key.  Take steps and make lists.  Everything will go smooth!  

Seeing all of my friends’ smiles– and my boys’ (with all of these cookies), makes it all worth it!


How To Host A Cookie Exchange is linked up and shared with This Gal Cooks 

Related posts:


  1. says

    Gloria, this post is awesome! I can imagine how much work it took in putting this together! I hope everyone shares with you how helpful this is to them. This is absolutely the most helpful cookie exchange guide ever! This will become everyones “go-to” guide when they are thinking of having an cookie exchange. YOU ARE THE BEST HOSTESS EVER! I want to come to your next party!
    tahnycooks recently posted…Ranchero BeansMy Profile

  2. says

    What a fantastic and super helpful post and guide! Your cookie swap party sounds amazing and I can see why the numbers of participants have grown so much over the years 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of these amazing and fun tips with us. I will definitely be using this as my “go to” guide if I ever have the courage to host a cookie swap party – oh how I wish I could come to yours, I know it will be another huge success again this year 🙂 Have a great week Gloria and wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! xo

  3. says

    When I was in high school, one of my home ec department teachers did a cookie exchange day with all of her classes. Every student had to sign up for what they were going to make so there were no duplicates, and then bring in 2 cookies per the number of students plus the teacher. When it was exchange time, she had everyone lay paper towels on their desks and then we all got up and walked around the room with our cookie tins, putting 2 cookies on every desk. When we were done, we went back to our desk to see all of the cookies we were given. Then we loaded them up into our now empty tins to take home. It was so much fun. I’ve always wanted to do something like that again. Maybe I will this year.
    Karen Goodman recently posted…Required Ingredient Recipe Link Party – TurkeyMy Profile

    • says

      Karen, that sounds like a really fun memory from school. I wish we would have done something like that when I was that age….I would have carried that as great memory like you have. Thank you for sharing!

  4. says

    What an awesome post Gloria!! OMG…you covered everything! My best friend used to host a cookie exchange many years ago. If 16 people were invited, we had to bring 16 dozen cookies. I had cookies coming out of my ears for weeks! Your way makes so much more sense. We even had people show up with OREOS on a plate. Drove me crazy. Once I get back to CA, I am planning my very own cookie party!!
    Lisa @ Cooking with Curls recently posted…Caramel Apple Martini & celebration continuesMy Profile

    • says

      Lisa, my guests would instantly think I was insane if I asked them to bring that many…they thought I was crazy when I raised it to 8 dozen. Last year, I made whoopie pies…times that with 8 dozen and I pretty much made 16 dozen cookies! THAT is a lot of cookies! (And, Oreos?! Don’t even get me started!)

    • says

      Wouldn’t it be so much fun if all of bloggers lived next to each other…we’d always get together while there’s a buffet of pretty much everything, every time! But, of course I’d be bringing over cookies all time to you but trade you for a slice of one of your delicious cakes!

    • says

      Shamene, it is so fun! All of my guests look forward to it all year long. (They start planning their cookie recipe in January!) It’s a great tradition, too. Hope you’re enjoying your day! (=

  5. says

    I love the idea of a Cookie Party! Sadly, my nearby friends and neighbors do not like to bake.
    How do you handle those who “break the rules”? Or do you figure it’s not worth the aggravation?
    Lisa@Cooking with Curls mentioned Oreos…oh, that would be like nails on a chalkboard!
    Jay@ Jay Tried and True recently posted…Thanksgiving 2013My Profile

    • Rconrad says

      One of my friends had the idea of an appetizer party. Everyone would bring an appetizer to be tried at the party and then take recipes home. It would make such a great party and everyone needs appetizer recipes for the holidays!

      • says

        What a great idea, Rconrad! That sounds like a lot of fun! And, you’re so right, we could always use some more appetizer ideas…. especially if there’s tasting involved! 🙂

    • says

      It’s so fun just getting everyone together….you’ll love it, Samantha! (And, the kiddos will LOVE and appreciate this so much when they are older.) =)

  6. says

    This is such great info! I just went to a church cookie exchange last night, and it wasn’t very well organized. It seemed like all the women were just picking out 5-6 of the same cookie, and there wasn’t enough left for the people who were last in line {me!}. I brought 3 dozen cookies, but left with only 1.

    I love your ideas, and it would be so fun to host one that actually worked!
    Kalyn Brooke | Creative Savings recently posted…Recipe: Glazed Peanut Butter Cookie CupsMy Profile

  7. Sharleen says

    This is a great summary of hosting a cookie exchange! I’ve done two on my own but love your ideas and how succinctly you get them across. Thank you!

  8. says

    I have always wanted to host one of these parties, and after reading a book this week, I decided to host one this year. Thanks for all the tips! Now I can’t wait!

    • says

      Winnie, you will have so much fun! It is something all of my guests look forward to all year long. In January, they always come up to me and tell me they already have what cookie they’re bringing… in the following December! Have a blast and I’d love to answer any questions you may have before then. 🙂

  9. Ada says

    My friends do a cookie exchange every Christmas season and have tweaked it along the way. We find it easier to specify home made and no chocolate chip. And we bring a plate of our cookies to share at the party plus a bag or gift box or 6 is cookies for each person participating, with the recipe attached. So when it is time to collect we pick up one bag of each and it is all even and no mess. Fun times!!

  10. Marlene says

    I am hosting a cookie exchange in our adult community in 3 days. Twelve signed up on our bulletin board (not including me) this year. I asked everyone to make 3 dozen cookies and separate them with 6 per plate or container. I will separate the participants into two groups, and they will exchange within their group…with one plate left (they can change their last plate with someone from the other group…or with me. Of course we’ll have Christmas music, a sweet treat and veggies and dip etc. I could have had them make 6 dozen, but then we’d have that many to take home and eat (although I’m sure many will share with neighbors). I like your idea of having a specific size and no chocolate chip. I’m thinking about some of your other tips too. THANKS!

    • says

      Marlene, that sounds SO like it’s going to be a blast! Love a good turn out like that… and you’re going to have so many delicious cookies! 🙂

  11. Jackie says

    This will be my 3rd year for our Cookie exchange. We have everyone bring a 1/2 dozen and we have them package them in one dozen festive bags or containers~~ 🙂 We serve hot cocoa and coffee (this year will be adults only so we might add some baileys!). LOL

  12. Tami Dampier says

    ive hosted a cookie party for 13 years now. I always serve a big pot of soup, mainly because it’s easier than making a bunch of appetizers, serve it with salad and garlic bread. I make folders every year with the year and a picture taken of the group from the previous year, this holds all the recipes. We don’t do a contest with the cookies, but we do an ornament swap, we play the dirty Santa game with that. I always try to come up with a few games and have prizes for that. Last year we had 26, it seems to grow a little every year, but it’s something we look forward to. Love your post.

    • says

      These are such great times to look forward to. I have friends that get thinking of what cookies they are making clear in January! I love your fun idea on an ornament swap. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and sharing your ideas with all of us! 🙂

  13. GRandall says

    I’ve been having cookie parties for the last 12 years. After a couple of parties I started asking my guests to prepackaged their cookies and bring a dozen for sampling. This has worked out great, everyone puts 3-4 cookies in a pkg and these going in my dining room. I make hot and cold appetizers and we have cookies for desert. I have a couple of games and prizes. When it’s time to go, everyone goes around my tables and get a pkg of each kind of cookie and the recipes. It’s always a lot of fun to see everyone. I will be checking out your cookie links.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge