Holiday Party Ideas: Cookie Swap Party

Host parties for swapping cookies these holidays season and your family and friends will think you've spent days baking!

In the midst of holiday preparations do you ever find yourself so thoroughly overwhelmed that you're not really enjoying yourself? Do you sometimes think if you or someone else adds one more item to your "to-do" list that you'll scream?

Here's a way to indulge in a little bit of rest and relaxation, while accomplishing something for the holidays. If you're like most people, one kind of Christmas cookie simply won't do. To accomplish this unrealistic goal, several evenings are spent preparing the dough and baking tray after tray full of several different varieties. For diehard bakers, there is an alternative. You don't have to do it like that this year. A couple of weeks before Christmas, host a cookie swap. Invite some of your closest friends, put on a pan of mulled cider, play some Christmas carols and light a few bayberry scented candles, and you've got a party!

The invitations are best home made. Some hostesses even opt to telephone with the invites, as not everyone readily understands the concept of a cookie swap. The idea is this: Each guest brings one kind of cookie, usually the number of dozens as there are invited guests, less one for yourself. To make it very simple, rely on this formula. If you invite eight friends to your cookie swap, this is what they bring: Seven and a half dozen cookies. Why the half dozen? That makes life easy for the hostess, who then only needs to provide a beverage and maybe some cheese and crackers when the sweets get to be too much. The extra half dozen goes on a large platter in the center of the table, to be sampled by the guests.

Each guest leaves with seven dozen cookies, a dozen of seven different varieties. It is important to specify that guests should make cookies that freeze easily, as the party is generally held about two weeks prior to Christmas. Each dozen is wrapped, so clean up is a breeze. Simply save out any cookies you wish to share with your family, and pop the rest into the freezer.

As a twist, throw a bit of incentive into the fun, and offer prizes for the most delicious and most unusual cookie. Who should you round up as taste testers? How about a stray husband or two or maybe a couple of lurking children? They're probably hiding out somewhere in the house anyway, so make sure they know to join the last few minutes of the party.

It's a nice idea to make a point of attaching a copy of the recipe to each dozen cookies. That way if they become a favorite at someone else's house, the recipe is neatly tucked away in their file.

Cookie swaps are a lot of fun. They are also a wonderful excuse to get together with friends during the hustle and bustle of the pre-holiday season. And to those unaware of your secret, it will make them think you've been baking for days!

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