Even being a godless vegan straight edge heathen, I love Christmas. I'll be the first to admit there's a lot not to love about it. For instance, I don't exactly love how wasteful it is: dead trees resurrected as Christmas cards; wrapping paper mountains that disappear overnight; families on the news pleaing for help with their electric bill because their light display captures the "Christmas spirit" better than anyone else's. I also don't love how commercial it is: buy this or your daughter will hate you! buy that or your house won't be Christmas-y enough! buy something or you're a total Scrooge! It's all very insulting.
And yet, I am smitten. For me, Christmas means snow-kissed landscapes and jazz in unexpected places. It means strange holiday crafts and complementary color schemes (hello, art nerd here!). It means pausing to appreciate your loved ones and pressure to be a little kinder. It also means a wealth of cookie recipes. For those of us compelled towards Christmas by something other than Christian faith, there's only one way to celebrate this odd cultural melange of Christian mythology and Pagan tradition. And that way to celebrate is... a cookie swap.
In my mind, cookie swaps are everything Christmas should be - and best of all, they don't even have to be about Christmas. (True story! You could host a cookie swap in July!) They're intimate because the best ones stay relatively small, and they're selfless because everyone has to do something for everyone else. Plus, the cookies are a built-in conversation-starter: "Man, how did you get those cookies to look like stained glass? That's so neat!", "Hey, these are amazing. What's your recipe?", "Don't take any of those home; they taste like feet." Cookie swaps are such a relaxed, no-fuss social occasion.
The formula for a cookie swap is simple:
01. Assemble a small guest list - maybe five to twelve people - and send out invitations. Be sure to specify how many cookies everyone should bake and any dietary restrictions/allergies they need to be sensitive of. Also remind folks to bring a container if you won't be providing them. If you're really amazing, tell them to wear one of those amazing holiday sweaters, too.
Pro tip: the dollar store sells cookie tins and large stacks of those Chinese take-out looking boxes, so if you want to provide containers for guests, there are options.
02. Make sure to have a table ready for all the cookies. You can dress it up with a cloth, candles, whatever (there are always fancy table settings on Hostess with the Mostess if you're into that), but having that surface is what's important. If you're feeling up to it, decorate your home, too. The dollar store and thriftstore are great sources for materials, but it's easy to make your own decorations, too. For bonus points, put on some of that sweet holiday jazz. (The library is an excellent source for said music.)
03. Provide beverages. Most of the cookies will probably go home with folks, but some will definitely be eaten at the party. That's why you need to provide soymilk, at the very least, and maybe some coffees and teas. Vegg nog, hot chocolate, chocolate chai rice milk, chai, chocolate peppermint soymilk - all good options, too! If you want to get crazy, throw in some juices and whatnot.
04. Plan games. Yeah, catching up and eating cookies are activities unto themselves - and in your case, that just might be enough - but if you really want to mark your party as an occasion, throw in some party games. Pin the nose on Rudolph! White elephant! Name that (Christmas) tune! Holiday charades! Stock the stockings! And on and on and on...
05. Have fun. Because that's what it's about, after all. And don't forget to remind your guests to take home some cookies!
Next week, I'm going to give some holiday cookie recipes perfect for gift-giving and cookie-swapping, so STAY TUNED.