Want a big plate of assorted holiday cookies to share with your friends and family but can't stand the idea of baking each and every one? Host a holiday cookie exchange! Invite your favorite people, serve a few snacks and drinks, and spend an afternoon swapping a variety of tasty homemade treats.

What Is a Holiday Cookie Exchange?

Also known as a cookie swap, a holiday cookie exchange is basically an excuse to have a party. And it's a party with a purpose — each guest bakes several dozen of one type of cookie, and then everyone trades. In the end, guests all leave with a tray filled with assorted holiday cookies to take home.

Ready to host a cookie exchange of your own? Start by following these simple steps.

Set a Date

December is a busy month, so set a date and send out invitations at least two weeks in advance. Keep in mind that Sunday afternoons tend to work better than Saturdays, and that not everyone you invite will be able to attend. Consider using an evite instead of paper invitations — this way it's easier for guests to communicate with you about what type of cookie they'll be bringing.

Determine an Amount

Some hostesses prefer to tell guests to bring the same number of cookies they hope to receive in return. So for example, a guest who brings two dozen cookies (one variety) would return home with two dozen cookies (several different varieties). But most cookie exchange veterans suggest that asking each guest to bring about 6-8 dozen, plus an additional dozen for sampling at the party, works well.

Plan to Feed Your Guests

Simple hors d'oeuvres and a few festive beverages are all you really need to provide. Cookies are sweet, so guests will appreciate the opportunity to nosh on some savory snacks. Serve a holiday punch and open a few bottles of wine and you're ready to go.

Prepare Pretty Packaging

As hostess, it's up to you to ensure that guests have a way to package their cookies. Gift boxes, paper plates or disposable trays can all be used, as well as cellophane paper, ribbons, tags and string. Guests will appreciate the opportunity to make their cookie tray look festive, and may be willing to contribute some of the materials as well.

Get the Recipes

Guests can either print their recipes and bring them along to the exchange, or email them to the hostess to compile. You can get fancy and create a recipe book, or simply let guests swap recipes they like among themselves.

Enjoy the Day

The holidays are a time for celebrating, so whatever you do, don't let your cookie exchange cause you stress. Once everyone arrives, encourage them to fill their tray with the wide variety of sweet treats available, and then sit back, relax, and enjoy their company.

Have you ever hosted or participated in a holiday cookie exchange?