Alert your friends and family: Here’s your step-by-step guide.

By Stacey Ballis
December 17, 2020
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The cookie swap is one of the loveliest things about the holidays. For one, cookies are eminently achievable, even for folks who rarely bake, and kids can jump in from a very early age. Further, cookies can be as simple as a four-ingredient peanut butter cookie or as complex as that Everest for the cookie baker, the finicky French macaron. Cookies bake quickly, recipes can often be scaled up for big crowds, and there are endless variations from just about every culture.

Why the cookie swap rules the holiday season

The cookie swap has long been a wonderful way for friends to gather to help each other with their gift giving. Each person makes several dozen of the cookie they are known for, and then brings them to the host’s home for tasting.  Everyone packs up some of everyone else’s cookies to help make their own festivities fun and to fill out the boxes they make for gifting. Often there are prizes for best cookies, recipes are traded, and sometimes a cookie that requires a lot of hands, like an Italian cucidati, might be made by the group on the day.

This year, when gathering isn’t possible, how do we pivot our cookie swaps so that they can still be a part of our holiday tradition? A little ingenuity is needed, along with some smart packaging. Here’s your step-by-step guide.

1. Bake as usual.

For starters, everyone should still plan on making the same amount of their cookie as they usually do.

2. Pack your cookies in custom containers

Instead of planning an in-person swap where everyone packs up their own boxes, determine how many of your cookie each other participant will be getting, and package your share at your house in either zip-top bags or airtight disposable containers, and label with the names of the people who are to receive them. This ensures that any cookies that are not designed for a particular household due to dietary restrictions do not get mixed up and will make pickups smoother and faster.

3. Don’t forget to share your recipe!

Print out copies of your recipe to attach to the packages or email the recipe to all participants.

4. Choose a smart swap location

Decide who has the safest place to do the swap, preferably someone with a protected front porch or backyard with direct street access, for the host to set up a distribution table. Choose a brief window for cookie drop-offs and pickups, ensuring that participants can stay safely distanced. If no one has a home that makes sense, think about a parking lot that is likely to be quiet, like a school lot on a weekend, or a movie theater parking lot of a theater that is closed.

5. Make your swap distribution center and do your drop off/pickup

Create a table or a set up a series of handled grocery bags on the ground with the names of your participants on them. When it is a participant’s turn to drop off, they should place the pre-labeled cookies on the table or in the bags of the recipients, and then socially distance so the rest of the cookies can get organized. Once all the cookies are on the distribution table, they can return in order to pick up their treats quickly and safely. If weather is inclement, have the bakers drop off their cookies and then return to their cars to wait for everyone else to have dropped off their cookies before starting the pickup rotation.

6. Meet online for the swap fun!

Plan an online gathering later that day or the next day to taste and test cookies, talk about the recipes, vote on favorites, or any of the other activities you usually do during your swap!

BONUS: 8 Ways to Elevate Your Cookie Swap Packaging

Want to go that extra mile? Here are some fun packaging ideas!

Chinese Boxes

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: Biodegradable 32-ounce Chinese Take Out Boxes ($24.91 for 50 pieces), amazon.com

Cellophane Treat Bags

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: TOMNK Christmas Cellophane Bags ($15.99 for 162 pieces), amazon.com

Cookie Boxes with Windows

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: Christmas Cookie Gift Baking Box ($19.99 for 24 pieces), amazon.com

Decorative Foil Containers

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: Christmas Foil Containers ($21.99 for 48 pieces), amazon.com

Christmas House Handled Boxes

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: 3D Christmas House Cardboard Treat Boxes ($12.99 for 24 pieces), amazon.com

Holiday Plastic Lidded Containers

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: Cook with Color Containers with Lids ($17.39 for 10), amazon.com

Holiday Handled Kraft Bags

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: Christmas Kraft Paper Bags ($6.99 for 12 pieces), amazon.com

Holiday Zip Top Bags

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Buy it: Ziploc Storage Bags, Holiday Designs ($18.52 for 120 count), amazon.com