Secret Santa is so last year! When planning a Holiday Party this year, why not do something a little extraordinary by adding a “cookie exchange” to the festivities.

Cookie exchange? What the heck is that? Traditionally, a cookie exchange happens during the holidays and it involves baking dozens of cookies using the same recipe and exchanging it with your friends. This allows each person to have a variety of cookies to serve during the holidays. Everyone including Santa loves a good cookie.

Instead of doing the normal Secret Santa gift exchange, which has been done so many times in the past, why not organize a mini-cookie exchange with a modern twist to your holiday party? A cookie exchange actually gets all your guests involved in the party. The best part is that at the end of the party you get to take a full bag full of yummy treats home to share with your loved ones (instead of just one $10 Secret Santa gift).

Here are some tips for adding a Cookie Exchange to your holiday party this year.

Party Logistics

Date: Set the date early in December to avoid the holiday party rush. As it gets later in the month people are either traveling or busy with other parties or shopping.

Type of Party: Decide what type of event you want to have. If it is a day time event- will kids be invited? Is this a Ladies Tea? Do you want a night time party? A holiday cookie exchange makes a great mom’s night out with a festive atmosphere as well.

Invites: Send out invites at least 2 weeks in advance. People need time to test out new recipes and organize their calendars.

Food: Decide what food and drinks you want to serve in addition to cookies. Dinner? Lunch? Just Appetizers? Egg-Nog? Hot Chocolate?

Set-Up: Make sure you create a “holiday” atmosphere. Decorate your place. Take your red table cover, decorate your tree, have a holiday centerpiece, etc.

Cookie Logistics

Type of Cookies: Although the idea of baking so many cookies can be a bit daunting for some people, inform your guests that they can bring store bought treats if they prefer. This way you include your non- baking friends as well. Also, there is no need to limit your party to only cookies – allow for brownies, chocolates, cupcakes as well. This will actually be a fun addition to the all of cookies.

Number of Cookies: Decide how many cookies each guest should bring. This will depend on the number of people you are inviting and how many cookies you want each person to take home. Each person will go home with almost the same amount of cookies as they came with – just a different assortment.

Cookie Bundles: Tell each guest to wrap their cookies in small bundles. A bundle of 3-5 cookies, depending on the size, is a good number. However, you can even do smaller bundles if this is a big party. Pre-wrapping the cookies makes it easier to organize and take home the cookies at the end of the party.

Tasting Platter: Make sure guests being an extra 5-7 cookies for a tasting platter at the party. This allows everyone to show off their treats and also saves you the trouble of having to bake an additional dessert for the party.

Taking Home the Cookies: Prepare bags or baskets for everyone to take their cookies home in. Make sure to label the bags with each guests name before the party begins. This will make it easy to distribute the cookies as each guest leaves.

Cookie Contest: Make the party a bit more interesting; have a “Cookie Taste Test”, “Best Looking Cookie” and “Best Wrapped Cookie” contest. Hand out a prize to the winner of each category. Try to make the prize cookie themed, for example give out star cookie cutters or a baking dish as the prizes.

So Many Cookies – What’s next?

You have a few options after the cookie exchange is over. You can stuff your face with cookies every night. It’s the holidays, you deserve to have some fun. Or you can do what I do (since I usually tasted so many cookies during the baking process that I can’t even look at another cookie); after a cookie exchange, I usually take the assortment of cookies and make little Christmas boxes of cookies to give out as gifts. I usually pass these boxes of cookies, with a holiday greeting card to the staff at my son’s school (office secretaries, janitors, security guard, etc.) – it is just a small token appreciation during the holiday season.