Cookies, Cocoa and Cider! Oh My!

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The holiday season is upon us and it truly is the most wonderful time of the year! I love decorating, the festive events, and gatherings with family and friends. With so much going on this time of year, it can be hard to fit in everything you'd like to accomplish. I love baking holiday goodies and always want to fit in a friends holiday celebration. Why not combine the two into one with a cookie exchange?

The cookie exchange is nothing new, as many workplaces and churches have done them for years. Last year, however, my group of friends turned it into our December Girl's Night Out and holiday celebration. The event went over so well that we are doing it again this year! Our host last year had some great setup ideas that were too cute, not to share. 

Invites + Cookie Math

First, things first. Decide who you'd like to include and send out an invite. Our group has found Evite to be an easy way to email cute and free invites that make it easy to RSVP and provide any comments. Set a deadline for RSVPs. Once you have your number of attendees, decide how many dozen cookies/holiday treats each attendee will need to bring. It is completely up to you if you want guests to bring home a dozen of each cookie or just a few.

Displaying the Goodies

Our host for the evening set up a great card table with a bunch of empty platters and blank place cards for guests to display their cookies. She found a great set of free printable signs and place cards online here.

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To hold up the placecards, she hot glued three regular-sized candy candes together to create a festive stand. Mini candy canes will do, too. You can usually find a good deal on candy canes at local dollar stores or another retailer. When guests arrived, they put their cookies on platters and then used a marker to label their treat.

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Time for Tasting

Once all the guests arrived, everyone was able to mingle and taste the goodies. To avoid sugar overlaod, our host also provided other non-sweet snacks to munch on. In addition, she had a hot cocoa bar complete with a way to add some adult beverages to the mix.

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There are some great recipes online for crockpot hot cocoa. It's easy and keeps the cocoa warm all night. Be sure to have mugs on hand or purchase decorative coffee cups from Target for easy clean-up. For alcoholic options, try Rum Chata or Peppermint Schnapps. 

If you are looking for a different holiday beverage, try a Cider Bar! I put this together for a Halloween party this year and it went over really well. I had apple cider from Costco going in the crockpot all night with cinnamon and alcoholic beverages nearby as an optional add-in. The caramel vodka was a hit! Other recommendations include Fireball and Captain Morgan. Reimagine the tombstone chalkboard sign and spider flair into something a bit more festive and you have another easy holiday party drink.

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Voting and Taking Home Goodies

As the night is winding down, have guests vote for their favorite cookies. You can be creative and create categories, rate the top three, or just have one overall winner. Our host (a talented-knitter) had a cozy scarf for the winner, but a bottle of wine or another little prize would also be fun.

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The best part of a cookie exchange is that you go home with a bunch of different goodies, without having to do all of the work yourself! As a party favor, our host got cookie tins on sale from a local retailer for around $1 a piece. If you're looking to save some money, feel free to ask your guests to use the tupperware their brought their own treats in to load up on goodies. You may want to tell them to bring an extra container since they will likely take home more goodies than they brought.

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Happy planning!