I was relatively new to the idea of a cookie exchange when I received an invitation to my first one a couple years ago. I had a lot of fun and those ladies really brought their “A” game but, when I left with plates and plates of cookies, the part of me that’s always trying to not sabotage my weight loss goals wondered if I should ever do it again. The party was fun but having all those cookies in my house sure wasn’t helping matters.
The next year, I decided to give neighbor gifts for the first time. I remembered getting thoughtful plates of homemade goodies from neighbors as a kid so I got to work whipping up six or seven holiday classics. Man, was that a lot of work! That’s when it dawned on me, why not combine these two ideas? Do a cookie exchange with the intent of getting a few cookies for your family but also some cookie plates to share with others.
So, the first “Bless Your Neighbor” Cookie exchange was born and it was a huge hit! I chose to do it as an event through women’s ministry at church but it could easily be done with a group of friends or even a group of families. I loved this event because it brought together women of all ages. There were lots of mother/daughter teams, older women, and plenty of single ladies as well. I think it’s fair to say the holiday cookies speak to just about everyone.
Here is what we did to make it festive fun:
Set the mood
This is the time to go over the top Christmas. If the place you’re meeting isn’t already decorated for Christmas, make the effort to give it a holiday spruce with lights, garlands and table cloths! Get your Christmas music playing and, of course, provide festive drinks and munchies. Hot cider or a hot chocolate bar would be excellent for this event and, for snacks, stick to savory offerings since the cookies will provide a lot of sugar!
Bring on the cookies!
I asked each lady to bring 4 dozen cookies. The goal was that each participant would leave with a dozen cookies for their family plus two boxes of a dozen cookies each to give to someone else. That left an extra dozen for munching at the party or in case any were smooshed in transport. I let the ladies know in advance that there would be prizes for the prettiest cookie, most unique cookie and the most creative cookie. There are lots of categories you could award so pick the handful that seem good to you. I purposefully avoided anything having to do with taste because I knew we wouldn’t have enough extra cookies for everyone to taste each type.
Last year, I had a couple of families show up with cookies that were free of certain allergens. I’m so glad they did this because it opened the options for everyone. This year, I’m putting the guests with sensitivities in touch with each other so they can coordinate their own little exchange as part of the bigger event. You can ask them to bring slips of paper with a list of ingredients to include with the cookies. You may want to provide Ziplock bags and disposable gloves to ensure the allergy free cookies aren’t contaminated by the regular cookies if they are put in the same box.
Provide the trappings
I think one of the main reasons this was such a hit was the arts and crafts component. I stopped at the local restaurant supply store and picked up a big stack of the cardboard boxes caterers use for boxed lunches and then provided ribbon, stickers, tags, washi tape and even some ink and stamps to decorate them. The ladies went wild and no two boxes looked the same. It was a great way to personalize the gifts and made time for everyone to mingle, chat and catch up. Remember when you are picking up supplies, each participant will need at least 3 boxes each and decorations enough for all of them.
This may be my favorite activity I’ve hosted in years. It hits so many priorities for me, bringing people of different ages together, providing an activity for them to get to know each other over, and doing something kind for others in your life. If you give this event a try, please share it below! I’d love to see pictures of you all with your cookies!