Sandra Magsamen
Too often, our holiday celebrations are filled with such tremendous effort, chaos and stress that they cease to be happy. In all the rush, we misplace the value of simply coming together with family and friends. We overspend, overindulge and overlook the reason we have gathered together. Hosting a cookie swap party is a simple, meaningful and artful way to embrace the true spirit of the holidays.

Instead of running all over town in search of that "perfect something" to give as a gift this holiday season, make something that will touch not just your loved ones' hearts but their tummies too: Bake cookies and swap them.

You can add renewed warmth and sparkle to the season by hosting a cookie-swapping party. Please don't panic—this is not about you doing all the baking for your friends. It's about all your friends doing the baking together. After all, this is the season to be merry and to celebrate family and friends. So why not get together, bake a little, laugh a little and have a whole lot of fun?

Host an evening for baking and creating great sweet treats to give as gifts.

4 STEPS TO HOSTING A COOKIE PARTY:

1. Send an Online Invitation
E-mail your friends and invite them to attend a sweet party—a cookie-making soiree and swap! Ask each friend to bring her favorite cookie recipe, as well as everything she needs to make them, including ingredients, cookie sheets and tools. Also ask her to bring a creative idea (and materials) for packaging the cookies as gifts . And don't forget: A bottle of wine might also come in handy!

2. Get Baking
Once your friends arrive, everyone will show and tell what they are baking. Folks can work in teams or alone. Your guests will not only bake up their favorite cookie recipes, but I promise, they will share laughter, stories and support for each other along the way.

3. Package the Cookies
Once the cookies have been baked, stories have been told and tummies have been filled with cookies (and hurt from laughter!), it's time to create artful packages for the cookies.

4. Smile
After the cookies are packaged and the dishes are done, smile as each guest heads home with lots of treats and with the "sweet" feeling that only friendship can bring.

This year, simplify your seasonal celebrations, share the cooking, decorate together, create gifts with meaning and focus on spending time with the people you love. Stay in or go out, make it a big deal or make it nothing at all. Do what expresses you, not what you think you have to do. Above all, celebrate what matters most: your friends and family.

Get 6 artful ways to package your treats


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