Tami Ruczko kicks off her holiday cheer each year with a cookie swap. "I started in 1990. We moved out here, and I was so lonely. We had our 6-week-old...

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Tami Ruczko kicks off her holiday cheer each year with a cookie swap.

“I started in 1990. We moved out here, and I was so lonely. We had our 6-week-old daughter and our 2 ½-year-old son, and I didn’t know anybody,” said the Chapin, S.C., resident.

She decided to invite old friends to exchange Christmas cookies, and the idea took off.

Now she can’t miss a year.

“After that night, I will have 16 new recipes and 16 new cookies to taste,” said Ruczko, whose affection for the party is contagious.

She has a scrapbook filled with recipes she has collected over the years as well as pictures of the cookie trays she ends up with after each year’s swap.

Here’s how the swap works: Each guest — and the hostess — provides a decorative bag of cookies for each person attending plus a bag for tasting; the bags are tagged with the name of the cookie, the cook and the recipe, and participants pick up different bags to take home as they sample the sweets. Store-bought cookies are forbidden.

In addition to enjoying the fellowship and fun, Ruczko loves the way the party has become a part of her holiday planning. Each year, the day after Thanksgiving, she, her daughter and mother go through recipes they’ve collected during the year to choose the cookie Ruczko will bake for the event.

That has become a bonus to the tradition, she said. She has wonderful memories of those hours in the kitchen with two of the most special women in her life.

The night of the party is a great time to put all the stresses of the holiday aside and foster friendships.

“It’s so fun. No kids. Just adults, and we talk about everything from school to kids to vacation — it’s just fun,” she said.

If the idea resonates with you, here are some suggestions on hosting your own cookie swap.

Party tips

• Ask guests to place their recipes on notebook-paper-sized stationery so they can be saved in a binder and referred back to through the years.

• Plan to bag or box a dozen cookies per guest, including the hostess, and another half-dozen for sampling at the swap. (If that’s too much baking for your group, request fewer cookies per bag.)

• Guests and the hostess should plan to do their baking several days before the party. This way, if a child gets sick or the power goes out, you’re not in a jam the day of.

• Keep refreshments simple. Offer salty items on the refreshment table to provide some relief from all the sweets.