Iain Bagwell

Festive, low cost, and oh-so-much-fun.  

There is something special about hosting a Christmas party in your new home. Whether you are a newly married couple or a single girl living on your own, sticking to a tight budget while trying to entertain can present some problems. Why not host a cookie swap? Everyone loves Christmas cookies and, with a cookie swap, your guests bring a gift—their cookies—and leave with an even bigger gift—more cookies. A cookie swap is an easy party to throw, especially when you follow these 5 easy tips. We have a great lineup of delicious holiday cookies that are ideal for this type of party, from classic Chewy Ginger Cookies to Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies. No need to stress over buying and exchanging gifts when everyone goes home with homemade sweet treats.

Plan ahead.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone so get the word out fast about your party. If you are striving for an easy, casual gathering, there is no need for pricey, printed invitations. Just email your friends as soon as you have a date set so they can RSVP asap.

Count on it.
Ask all your friends to bring 3 dozen cookies; this amount from everyone will yield a nice variety. The more people you invite, the more cookies you will have to swap. Do the math—if there is a total of 7 at the party (you plus 6 friends) and you each contribute 36 cookies, that is 252 cookies to divvy up! Everyone will go home with a nice mix of 7 different types of cookies. Provide inexpensive tins or zip-lock baggies so guests can pack up their goodies.

Avoid duplications.
When your friends RSVP, have them tell you what kind of cookie they're planning to bring. Everyone loves refrigerated slice-and-bake chocolate chip cookies, but encourage your guests to be creative and experiment with their favorite childhood cookie recipe. Also, give a heads-up about any food allergies among the group, especially to nuts, and make sure there are cookies available to accommodate those special needs.

Get copies of the recipes.
Ask guests to bring enough copies of their recipe for all. Or, for a creative approach, ask each guest to email you a copy of her recipe a few days ahead of time. Print all the recipes on pretty craft paper or recipe cards, and include the name of the friend who donated the recipe and the date of the party.

Feed the crowd.
You don’t want your friends to eat all the cookies before they even get home. Offer some savory, easy to assemble party appetizers, such as dips and cut vegetables, cheese and crackers, and the traditional favorite, pigs-in-the-blanket. Paper products are really convenient, but avoid the cost (and the waste) and borrow some pretty dishes and serving platters from your mom or friends. Even a simple appetizer can look festive and fancy on a colorful holiday tray. Provide soft drinks and ice, or advise in the invitation if the party will be BYOB.