The holiday season is a time for joy, warmth, and, of course, delicious treats.

One way to combine all three is to host a holiday cookie exchange, where you gather with friends and family to swap homemade (or even store-bought) cookies and create lasting memories. Here are some tips for planning and putting together an unforgettable event.

Making Christmas cookie

Decide on the rules

Before your gathering, you’ll want to establish clear guidelines for the exchange. Do all the cookies have to be made from scratch? How many should each participant bring? Are there any dietary restrictions they need to consider? You could also have everyone bring copies of their recipes to the exchange and, if you’d prefer to avoid potential overlap, ask them to share what they’re making ahead of time. Once you’ve settled on the rules, clearly communicate them when you send out your invites to your guests. These details can help get everyone on the same page and ensure the exchange goes smoothly.

Friends eating Christmas cookies

Create a menu

While cookies are undoubtedly delicious, they probably won’t be enough to satisfy your guests, so you’ll need to decide on a separate menu. You don’t have to prepare a five-course meal; instead, just serve up snacks and appetizers, such as finger sandwiches and a fruit tray, as well as drinks like tea, coffee, hot cocoa, and a holiday punch. This will give your guests something lighter to enjoy while they indulge in the different cookie offerings.

Mom and daughter wrapping christmas gift

Provide packaging and labels

As each of your guests arrives, be sure to hand them a label they can write their cookie name (and any allergen warnings) on and set in front of their tray. Making this information readily available will help everyone better know what the options are and decide which they want to try. There will also surely be leftovers to share, so you may want to provide holiday bags or boxes for guests to use—rather than the trays or containers they brought their offerings in—to package up cookies to take home. Besides being more festive, they’re a simple way for everyone to divvy up the remains or even collect some for other loved ones.

Friends eating Christmas cookies

Set the stage

If your home is already decorated for the holidays, you likely won’t have to do a lot to get it prepped for the cookie exchange. The biggest task will be ensuring there is enough space. This may require moving around your existing decor or furniture and setting up additional tables or stations where participants can arrange their cookies for swapping. The goal is to make it easy for your guests to move from table to table, sampling cookies and selecting ones they wish to add to their takeaway bags.

When that’s done, you can focus on setting the mood for the event with your lighting and music. Place some holiday-scented candles in the room where the exchange will take place to create a cozy feel, and make a playlist of festive tunes guaranteed to keep spirits lively.

Decorating christmas cookie

Include a special touch

The cookie exchange is obviously the main event of the evening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have other activities planned. Consider setting up a cookie-decorating station where each guest can decorate a sugar cookie for everyone to vote on, with a winner being declared at the end of the evening. You could also have guests vote on the samplings they brought in different categories, including most creative, prettiest, and best tasting. These additional touches can create a little friendly competition and help make the event even more memorable.

Person writing note

Express your gratitude

When the festivities are over, don’t forget to express your appreciation to all your guests for attending and contributing to your cookie exchange. You can prep a small gift bag for each person, perhaps with some additional holiday treats (though these could be store-bought) and a printout of your favorite holiday recipe. Or instead, you could send a handwritten thank-you note or personalized message afterward, which can go a long way in showing how much the evening meant to you.

Hosting a cookie exchange is a delightful way to celebrate the holiday season while creating a memorable event filled with warmth, laughter, and homemade treats. So gather your loved ones, roll up your sleeves, and let the swap begin!