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Celebrate the Holidays with a Cookie Exchange Gathering!

One of the best parts of the holiday season is enjoying the tasty treats that seem to be in abundance at every get together, on everyone's desk at work, and at every shop on the corner.  This year, instead of spending hours slaving over a hot stove, making the same Christmas cookies you've been baking for years, why not switch things up a little and host a cookie exchange with your friends?  Then, everyone can share their favorite treats, you might get some new recipe ideas, and you can spread some holiday cheer at the same time! 

The basic idea behind a cookie exchange is that you can get together with 10-14 friends for an afternoon of holiday cheer, where everyone brings a few dozen of their favorite cookies to share.  Decide ahead of time if everyone will be bringing a half or full dozen cookies for each participant.  Have them separate the cookies into individual parcels ahead of time to cut down on chaos and confusion during the party.  Packaging can be as simple as placing the cookies on a festive peppermint paper plate or even a clear plastic plate with an elegant doily and some green or red cellophane tied with a pretty bow, or get your creative juices flowing!  Package your cookies in hat boxes lined with wax paper, holiday tins, cake platters you've decorated with holiday scenes, or other elaborate containers.  If you'll be inviting anyone with nut or wheat allergies, ask that everyone label their cookies if they have any of those high allergen ingredients.  It's also a good idea to have everyone bring copies of their cookie recipe to share in case someone discovers a new favorite they want to add to their yearly baking rotation!  Be sure to include the fact that no store bought cookies will be allowed.  After all, it wouldn't be fair for all the guests to spend hours creating beautiful holiday cookies while one guest to show up with a package of Oreos to trade. 

Send the invitations out for your Christmas cookie exchange at least four weeks in advance.  People's schedules fill up fast during the holiday season, plus, they'll have plenty of notice to get their baking done.  Evites are easy, but using personalized gingerbread invitations are a cute and personal touch that your guests will be appreciated!  Plus, you can include all the cookie exchange rules on the invitation.   You'll also want to have a firm RSVP date on the invite so that you can call the guests with a final cookie count at least a week ahead of time.  This way, everyone knows exactly how many cookies they'll need for the exchange. 

No need to get fancy decorating for your Christmas cookie exchange since your house is probably already decked out for the holidays!  Just light some holiday scented candles, turn on the lights on the Christmas tree, and crank up the holiday music CD  and you'll be set!  The only other thing you'll need to worry about is setting up a couple tables to handle the cookies and some munchies.  Have one table out where the guests can set out all their plates of cookies.  This will make it easy for everyone to pick up their batches of goodies when it's time for the actual exchange.  Cover the table with a festive red and white stripe tablecloth and then leave it empty to accommodate all the cookie plates that will be arriving.  Have some extra Ziploc bags, paper plates, plastic wrap, and boxes available for guests to take their goodies home in. 

You'll also need another table set up for some munchies.  While it's customary at a cookie exchange to have the guests bring extra cookies to snack on at the party, you'll also want to have some not-so-sweet treats available as well.  You don't want anyone passing out from a sugar rush!  Veggies and dip, chicken rollups, pita chips and hummus, nuts, and finger sandwiches are all great options.  Stock the bar with apple cider, water bottles, hot chocolate, and of  course, plenty of ice cold milk to serve with those cookies! 

A Christmas cookie exchange is the perfect way to fill the cookie jar and spend some time with your friends this holiday season, and, at the same time, you may just discover a new favorite Christmas treat!  So stock up on the sugar and spice, invite over your favorite baking friends, and get ready for an afternoon of indulgence with your Christmas cookie exchange! 

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