By Su Avasthi
When it comes to Christmas traditions, a heaping platter of holiday cookies ranks right up there with mistletoe kisses and having one too many at the office party. Few things are more festive--or more delicious--than a tray laden with Yuletide goodies, such as gingerbread men, iced candy cane sugar cookies, coconut macaroons and toffee bars.
But unless you're Mrs. Fields, single-handedly baking and then decorating a dozen different types of cookies is probably not a top priority, particularly amidst the holiday madness. Enter the cookie swap--a Christmas tradition in which our grandmothers might have participated.
The rules are simple: Someone organizes a cookie swap at their home. Each guest must bring a large batch of home-baked cookies. Fellow bakers then gather around a table, exchanging their own cookies for others'. Everyone leaves with the same number of cookies they came with, only now each guest's tin contains many varieties.
Cookie swaps are an easy way to bring friends together for a little holiday cheer without having to devote hours to preparation. Just provide a festive beverage or two and let guests nibble on the cookies. "It's always great to have 15 to 20 people walk into your house with dozens of cookies," says Robin Olson, a Maryland mom who has hosted cookie swaps for the past 11 years. "I hold an annual exchange and basically it's a party for me and my girlfriends."
Hosting a cookie swap, especially for the first time, can be a little complicated. Some tips:
Send out invitations early and expect a few last-minute cancellations.
Specify how many cookies each guest should bring.
Ask guests to RSVP with the type of cookie that they're baking to avoid too many duplicates.
Establish a fair system of exchange and make it clear to everyone from the start. For example, have guests file past a table, taking three cookies of each variety until everything has been divided up. Further trading is up to the individual.
Remind guests not to show up empty-handed. If any don't have time to bake from scratch, suggest they stop by quality bakeries for their contributions.
Remind guests to bring empty cookie jars or holiday tins in which to take the treats home.
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