how to host a cookie exchange party

Christmas Cookie Exchange Party [The ULTIMATE Guide]

How to host a Christmas Cookie Exchange Party

I love cookies and I don’t care who knows it!  That’s why I decided to start hosting a Christmas Cookie Exchange Party as a tradition!  

When I first decided to host a cookie swap party, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing. There was so much information and it seemed a little overwhelming. BUT…I’m here to tell you it is NOT difficult! It’s really fun!

This helpful guide will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about hosting a cookie exchange party.

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You may have heard it called a Christmas Cookie Swap or a Holiday Cookie Exchange, or one of the many other terms for it.  Whatever you’ve heard it called, the idea is the same across the board! To keep it simple, we’ll just call it a cookie exchange or cookie swap.

A cookie exchange is a fun party you can host (or do at work with your coworkers!) where everyone brings a set number of one type of cookie. 

Typically, you bring one dozen for each person attending the party.  So, if you have 5 guests, EACH guest should bring 5-6 dozen cookies. This will ensure each person gets to try one of each type, and take home one dozen (or just under) of each type.

Typically, during the party everyone will sample each of the cookies.  This could be a fun way to turn it into a contest for the guests to pick their favorite cookie (more on that later).

At the end of the party, each person will take home one dozen of every type of cookie at the party, so they can have their own cookie platter mixture!

That’s it!  Those are the basics!

I know, I know, when you think about a party you don’t want to think about a bunch of rules.  But I promise, having some cookie swap rules will help keep everything organized and running smoothly!

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Rule 1: Set the amount of cookies everyone needs to bring

First, I would make sure that all guests know they are expected to bring one dozen cookies for each other guest in attendance.

As mentioned above, if you have 5 guests, each one of those guests needs to bring 5 dozen cookies. 

If you have quite a lot of guests, say 10, you could ask them also to bring 5 dozen cookies and that way each guest will still take home a half dozen of each, without having to make 10 dozen (120!!!) cookies.

Rule 2: Everyone tells you what they’re bringing ahead of time

Guests should tell you ahead of time what type of cookie they are bringing.

It may seem restrictive at first, but if you have…like…300 sugar cookies, that doesn’t make anything much fun!  The point is variety, and maybe to try a new recipe!

Give them a deadline, and this will help ensure you have plenty of variety. 

If someone is getting close to the deadline and asks for inspiration or suggestions, you’ll be able to let them know that you could really use another chocolate based cookie, or something with peanut butter, etc.

Rule 3 (optional): Homemade only!

Everything should be homemade.

Of course, this can be optional.  If you want to allow people to bring store bought cookies, that’s totally up to you!

However, keep in mind, if you are going to allow one person to buy their cookies at the store, you have to allow all guests to have the option to buy cookies at the store.

Obviously people will have to bring their cookies in something anyway.  I decided to get some cheap platters to display everything on. 

Plus, each person could take the platter home after we redistributed all the cookies!

Don’t forget the aluminum foil to cover everything!


Rule 5 (optional): Everyone submits their recipe BEFORE the party

I had each guest send me their recipe ahead of time so I could make recipe cards for each person to take home with their cookies!  

Seriously, it’s always nice to get another recipe to add to your recipe box or recipe binder.

I used my Cricut and one of their recipe card templates to create recipe cards for everyone!

Seriously, if you don’t have a Cricut and you like to do crafty stuff, you NEED to get a Cricut! PLUS, there are tons of helpful Facebook groups and websites where you can get craft inspiration!


Rule 6 (optional): Candy is (or is NOT) allowed!

Some people make homemade candy, and you can decide if you want to do this with your guests. 

First, if you’re going to be allowing candy, I’d personally make sure that there are a few different people bringing different types of candy. 

This could be different flavors of fudge, caramels, homemade peanut butter cups, etc.

The only thing to keep in mind with this is if you’re having a contest, you will want to have a category specific for the candy competitors. 

Just another thing to think about!

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Don’t forget to get your Holiday Planner! 37 planning pages you can print out for an organized holiday season! There is an optional Thanksgiving Planner with 20 additional pages. Check them both out here!


Your cookie exchange invitations should have ALL the details.  After all, this isn’t just any gathering, it’s basically like a cookie exclusive pot luck!

A few things to keep in mind before even making your invitations:

  1. It’s the holidays & everyone is busy – Making it a little difficult to get a commitment, some people might not confirm until last minute. You should keep this in mind with timing of sending out invitations.
  2. People want to know exactly how many cookies they are making – Generally this is good information for them to have before they commit to a certain cookie. For example, sugar cookies can be time consuming when you think about icing them all, so it’s hard to commit to 8 dozen!
  3. Don’t dictate what cookies you’re expecting – You can set whatever rules you want, but if you’re expecting everyone to bring cut outs like sugar or gingerbread cookies, it might seem daunting. So leave it up to the guests what they should bring!

It’s best to go into the situation having an estimate of how many people you would like to have total. Not everyone will take you up on the offer to attend, and some might cancel.

When I make a guest list, I list out everyone I want to invite, and then I count how many of them I feel confident would attend.

If you are shooting for 6 guests, you can say up front that each person needs to make 6 dozen cookies. Let them know to keep in mind that number could change, and you will have a final number for them by a certain date.

I usually have around 8 people attending my party, and it works out really well!  

I let everyone know there would be 8 people, and they could certainly make 8 dozen cookies if they’d like.  However, I recommended everyone make 4-5 dozen.  

That way each person would go home with at least 6 of each type of cookie, and we would have enough to nibble on to judge the cookies for the contest!

If a good number of your guests plan on doing a lot of entertaining over the holiday season, it may be good for everyone to bring one dozen per guest at the party.  One dozen per person is what was widely recommended on the many different websites I found, and that way each person will have plenty for entertaining. It’s up to you how many you should request everyone brings!

You can send out the cookie swap invitations online through a Facebook event or group, or you can send them in the mail.  Here are some details you need to include on your invitations or in your online invitation:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Location / Address
  • Deadline for cookie choice & recipe submission
  • Prep guests ahead of time so they know how many cookies to make

Variety is Key

Make sure you coordinate with each person who will be bringing what type of cookie!  

Keep in mind that it’s best to have different tastes available.

 Having too many peanut butter variations could be a turn off to some of your guests.  

I usually choose my cookie last to help ensure there is plenty of variety.  



Christmas cookie exchange decorations don’t have to be difficult!  Your house is probably already decorated for the holidays, so there’s really minimal things that are needed for the party!

You could add a tablecloth to the area where you’ll be displaying the cookies.

You can also choose to have cute serving trays to put everything on.

I also used my Cricut and a template from their design space to create these folded labels to display by each cookie. 

I added the plastic rhinestones by putting just a small drop of glue on them. And I love this glitter cardstock! Last, I added just a bit of glitter washi tape on the bottom.

I wrote the name of each cookie with metallic paint markers.

Picture of cookies

There really aren’t a ton of extra items you need for the decorations, especially if you already have your holiday decorations up!

Don’t forget to get your Holiday Planner! 37 planning pages you can print out for an organized holiday season! There is an optional Thanksgiving Planner with 20 additional pages. Check them both out here!

Make sure you have more than cookies at a cookie swap party! 

You should have some small appetizers for guests to nibble on throughout the party.

Plus, not everyone will arrive at the exact same time, so it will be nice for them to have something to eat while they wait for the official cookie contest to begin!

Some easy ideas are:

  • Chips and salsa and/or guacamole
  • Cheese, crackers, and sausage
  • Pretzels
  • Easy to make dips
  • Veggie tray

Honestly, you want this to be easy for yourself, you’ll also be making a cookie for the party!

Don’t forget beverages!  Depending on if you’re having all adults or a mix of adults and kids make sure you have on hand a couple of the following options:

  • Water
  • Juice
  • Coffee and/or tea
  • Wine
  • Cocktail mixes
  • Beer
  • Soda

Honestly, don’t make this too hard on yourself!

It’s definitely NOT a requirement for a cookie swap party, but games can be fun to play!

It can be especially helpful if your guests are from various areas of your life and don’t all know each other. Games can be a great way to break the ice.

Once again, I’d keep these pretty simple. They can be as easy as unscrambling Christmas or winter related words.

Make sure to have a few categories for awards!  Here are some ideas (some are basically the same thing, just different wording, depending on your preference):

  • Most Unique Cookie
  • Most Creative Cookie
  • Prettiest Cookie
  • Most Festive Cookie
  • Most Christmas-y Cookie
  • Most Original Cookie
  • Best Looking Cookie
  • Best Decorated Cookie
  • Best Tasting Cookie
  • Best All-Around Cookie

When I have around 8-ish guests, I usually have 4 categories they could win. I like to let people know ahead of time, some of my friends are competitive!

I usually have Most Festive, Most Creative, Most Original, and Best Decorated.

There are plenty of ideas for what you can award the winners! 

Now, just a simple ribbon or printed award is PLENTY!

Or you could get some cute medals!

If you’re looking for a complete kit with awards, voting cards, invitations and the works, this would be perfect for you!

The opportunities are endless!


Even if someone doesn’t win, EVERYONE can walk away with some little party favors!

Picture of gift bags for cookie exchange winners
Gifts for winners of the cookie contest, and goody bags for everyone!

First, obviously everyone is leaving with a great cookie platter with a ton of variety.  But remember, you also collected everyone’s recipes!

I made recipe cards on my Cricut, but you could also use index cards and some cute stamps to make the recipe cards.

I hole punched a corner of them and attached a binder ring through them, along with one cookie cutter.  I tied that onto treat bags with some candy in it for each person to take home with them!

This is the easiest to do, but you could also replace the cookie cutter every year with a different holiday themed accessory like a spatula or other baking related items!

Any small party favors will do, and your guests will really appreciate them (they’ll probably be unexpected too!).

Since people are so busy around the holidays, I have also thought of having a Christmas in July Cookie Exchange.  It would be really cute, plus you would be able to get a Christmas cookie fix in the middle of the year!  It might be fun and you could do so many other sub-themes along with it.

We also have a different shopping event going on during the party, so that also added to the fun.  If you have a friend that sells things or makes crafts that could be gifts, this is a perfect opportunity for another activity at the party!

Feel free to combine other activities for your guests.  It might help people keep their minds off how many cookies they are consuming!

Wrapping It All Up

There you have it!  Your go-to, detailed guide to hosting a Christmas cookie exchange party (or Christmas cookie swap party, if you prefer)!

A cookie exchange party is a really fun way to get together with some family and/or friends over the holidays.  It’s a great way for everyone to have a variety of cookies to take home, or to work, or to their next party as well!

I want to know, what are your favorite Christmas cookie recipes?  Have you been to a cookie exchange party, and what did you like (or dislike) about it!

Don’t forget to get your Holiday Planner! 37 planning pages you can print out for an organized holiday season! There is an optional Thanksgiving Planner with 20 additional pages. Check them both out here!

How to host a cookie exchange party

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