Party Prep: Box 'Em Up
Stir up your favorite Santa-worthy recipes and invite friends, coworkers, and family members to do the same. All finished cookies deserve a cute container. Be sure to have festive boxes, tins, and ribbons on hand so guests can package up their cookies in style. From simple glassware and muffin trays to festive boxes and foil tins, there's something for everyone. Use simple ribbon, tissue paper, bows, and tags to glitz them up.
Party Prep: Festive Invites
Send invitations three to four weeks in advance, before everyone's schedules fill up. On the invitations, be sure to include how many cookies to bring (ask for homemade), specifics on packaging the cookies, and any other special features you plan for the cookie exchange.
Party Prep: Come Prepared
Ask each attendee to bring at least three dozen cookies to make sure everyone has enough cookies to tote home. If you plan to serve some at the party, ask guests to bring an extra dozen or two for a special sampling buffet.
Editor's Tip: If the cookies they bake require decoration, notify your guests to bring them plain and unfrosted. You can save some of the decorating fun for the party!
Party Prep: Pretty Presentation
Instead of purchasing a pricey set of seasonal dinnerware, mix and match plates and dishes you already own for an affordable (and adorable) way to display your cookies. An assortment of different sizes, styles, and colors are all welcome, just be sure to keep things festive and pretty!
Party Prep: Holiday Playlist
Create a playlist so cheery, you and your party crowd will be jingle bell rockin' before you know it. A mix of jazzy classics from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin pair festively with current pop artists like Mariah Carey and Michael Buble. Have guests send any favorite holiday song requests along with their RSVPs.
Party Drink: Bottled Wine
'Tis the season for toasting! Pop open a bubbly bottle of wine to share with guests before the cookie swapping begins. Offer variations of red, white, and champagne.
Editor's Tip: Add Christmas cheer to each bottle (preparty), by decorating them with wrapping paper, ribbons, and seasonal tags. If you have any leftover bottles, you can send them home with guests as a thank-you for attending.
Party Drink: Hot Cocoa
Cozy on up with a steamy cup of cocoa. Choose from four of our favorite and delicious variations to serve. From candy cane and caramel-splattered toppings to raspberry liqueur and dark chocolate stir-ins, there's a recipe for every hot cocoa-lover.
Editor's Tip: If you're serving more than one kind of cocoa and don't have enough portable coffeepots, ask to borrow one from a friend.
Party Snack: Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Fresh rosemary and brown sugar give this party necessity a hint of the holidays. Serve the roasted nuts in various-size bowls, then set them out by the drinks, cookies, and near other areas of conversation.
Makes: 30 servings
Prep: 15 mins
Bake: 12 mins 375°F
Party Snack: Caramel Popcorn
While we love stringing popcorn, it's even more enjoyable to eat. Set out bowls and tins of the super sweet treat, made with plain popped popcorn, homemade caramel, and salted mixed nuts.
Makes: 18 servings
Prep: 20 mins
Bake: 20 mins 300°F
Cookie Decorating: Easy Cookie Cutting Tips
Another fun cookie exchange tradition is to bake some of the cookies right at the party. If you don't have enough cookie cutters for everyone, precut stencils are easily traceable. If you prefer, prepare one big, showstopping tree cookie and let guests put on the finishing touches. Be sure to set out frostings, candies, and other ingredients they can use to decorate.
Cookie Decorating: Ombre Frosting
If you're making your cookies ahead of time, use your cookie exchange party to let everyone help decorate. To begin, whip up a batch of creamy frosting, then divide into bowls to create three or more shades of one hue. Here, we used red. Use resealable plastic bags and spoon in the frosting, snip a small corner of each baggie, then get creative with an elegant ombre design that slowly transitions from the darkest shade of red to pale pink and white.
Items Needed: unfrosted cookies, frosting, food coloring, resealable plastic bags, scissors
Cookie Decorating: Swirled Frosting
Take unfrosted holiday cookies from plain to pretty in a few easy steps. To achieve this swirled look, first frost the cookie with white icing. Before it dries, use a spoon or knife to drizzle the green icing on top. Swirl a clean toothpick through the white and green icing to create a swirled frosting effect.
Items Needed: unfrosted cookies, frosting, food coloring, spoon, toothpicks
Cookie Decorating: Holiday Blossoms, Slide 1
These late bloomers start with your favorite sugar cookie dough rolled into balls. Cut down on prep time by using store-bought refrigerated dough. Next, you simply snip and fold to form lovely flowers (see the next slide for how-to details). Colored sugar and a candy center add pizzazz.
Cookie Decorating: Holiday Blossoms, Slide 2
Roll a dough ball in colored sugar. Snip it in half with scissors, then snip each half into three petals. Gently spread the petals apart and lay flat.
Cookie Decorating: Edible Glitter
Add glitz and glam to your holiday cookies by dusting them in silver and gold glitter. We especially like it with our holiday blossom cookies. Look for the edible accent at your local crafts store or in the baking section of your grocery store.
Cookie Decorating: Sugar-Rolled Cookies
Turn plain-Jane cookies into adorably dressed treats in three easy steps. First, roll the dough into a cylinder, then roll the cookie dough in colorful sugar as shown. Slice the roll into cookie-size pieces and bake for a sweet and simple Christmas cookie.
Party Activity: Best Christmas Cookie Contest
After attendees sample each cookie, let them vote for their favorites. Dress up a simple bulletin board with festive fabric and pinned-on envelopes for an easy voting station.
Party Activity: Gingerbread Houses
Keep kids entertained with building pretty gingerbread houses. To make things simple, buy gingerbread pieces at your local crafts or grocery store, then organize all the candy decorations in small bowls.
Party Favor: Ribbon-Wrapped Peppermints
Wrap peppermint sticks in ribbons and bows, then send them along with guests for a sweet way to say thanks. Look for candy canes in the candy aisle of your local grocery store.
Host/Hostess Gift: DIY Cookie Mix
For an oh-so-sweet holiday hostess gift, layer the ingredients of your favorite Christmas cookie in a quart jar and fasten the lid, using a festive ribbon for decoration. Include the recipe and simple baking instructions on a card, and tie on with thread.