How to organize a Christmas cookie exchange
What could be better than getting friends together and trading gossip and cookies? Of course, there's more to throwing a good Christmas cookie exchange than just baking up a few batches and calling friends over. You have decorations to pick, a menu (or at least a drink selection) to plan, and a bunch of other little details to consider. Don't worry, though, your cookie exchange can be totally stress-free as long as you stick to this game plan.
To theme or not to theme
The first thing you need to decide with your Christmas cookie exchange is whether you're going to have a theme. It is a party after all and sometimes it's fun to have a theme. You might have “Cookies your grandma made” or “Cookies from around the world” or you might just go with plain old cookies. No matter your theme, the event is supposed to be social and fun, so keep your decorations light. Find fun seasonal napkins, plastic napkin holders and silly mugs for drinking to ensure that everyone knows this event shouldn't be taken too seriously.
The next question you should think about is whether you're going to serve snacks. At some cookie exchanges, everyone comes expecting to eat each other's cookies, which is fine, but it doesn't hurt to have a few savory finger foods as palate cleansers and changes of pace. Plus, if you're using the party to bring together people who've never met, meeting around a plate of food can be a great icebreaker. Whatever you do, though, don't serve your own cookies as snacks at your party. It's kind of gauche.
If you're not sure what to serve, a vegetable tray or cheese plate is nice, mini-pizzas, meat skewers or little quiches are all perfectly acceptable and not-at-all cookie-ish.
Have drinks ready
Even if you're not serving food, you should have a range of drinks. If you're thinking alcoholic beverages, Prosecco, sweet Champagne and sweet white wines will all work with cookies. However, you should also have bottled water and milk because some people can't eat cookies without their milk. Also, to be just a little different, offer hot chocolate (with or without liquor) as a nice nod to the season.
Get the recipes beforehand if you can
If at all possible, get everyone's recipes emailed to you so that you can print them out into little books everyone can take home. This is much easier than hoping that everyone remembers the recipe and puts all of the recipes in a book, which is much harder to lose than the traditional index cards in each bag.
Another thing you may want to do is have everyone's contact information. Cookie exchanges are fast ways to make new friends, so providing people with a way to keep in touch is a nice hostess' touch.
Cookie bags with labels
Finally, have a few easily-labeled plastic bags and a Sharpie handy. It should be up to each person to bag their own cookies and label them, but invariably someone will forget. When this happens, you can look like the ace hostess when you produce bags and a marker.