And how to stay healthy while you do it.
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Star shaped sugar cookies in a red tin.
Credit: JMichl/Getty Images

One of my daughter's favorite cookies is Grandma's Gingersnap Cookies. She makes them about once a month. This year, she asked me how would we do a cookie exchange with COVID-19 restrictions preventing typical holiday gatherings. We talked about it, and she decided to do a FaceTime call with her best friend, sharing the recipe and gathering ingredients for her. We dropped spices and molasses off in in the friend's mailbox. The two girls "met" over the call and made the cookies step-by-step. Both houses smelled like ginger and the holidays; the cookies didn't last the week.

Cookie Exchange Guidance for 2020

Like my daughter, you don't have to give up your traditional cookie exchange in 2020 either. With a few adaptations, you can create new traditions and memories. While your exchange may be socially distanced, long-distanced, or digital, there's always a new way for cookies to crumble. These guidelines can help:

  • Look over community spread reports. If it's not safe to meet in person, do a distanced event online, or drop off in the mailbox and on porches. Consider having it just between members of your household, family, quarantine bubble, or one-on-one. If you do gather, mask up and wear gloves while preparing, baking, and packaging.
  • Be cautious and courteous. If you're coughing, sneezing, feeling ill, or quarantined because of a possible exposure, participate in other ways. Let people bring the cookies to you.
  • Use gloves when preparing, baking, removing, and packaging.
  • Choose cookie recipes that don't require hand kneading or mixing. Use a stand or hand mixer instead.
  • Don't forget: Check for any allergies and have participants note ingredients.

Get everything you need: Ultimate Guide to Holiday Cookies

Once you've considered all the healthy and safety requirements, now you can pick how you want to do your exchange. These ideas are meant to serve as a template for your planning, and you can customize your exchange for you and your cookie crew.

Baby, It's Cold Cookies Outside

One way to share cookies in a 2020 exchange is to make and chill or freeze cookie dough. Create the cookie rolls or chilled mixes, and then exchange the dough for making cookies at home. Include chilling and baking instructions and everyone in the group can slice and bake at home.

Tip: If you have a larger group, exchange 1/4 or 1/2 rolls so everyone can try a 1/2 dozen of many different cookies.

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Oh Cookie Exchange, Oh Cookie Exchange

Reduce contact during a cookie exchange (in-person or not) with prepared cookies with minimal decorations. Oreos are easy to dip in chocolate and decorate; try the gingerbread version dipped in white chocolate for the holidays, or original dipped in chocolate with crushed peppermints. Packaged short bread cookies also work with the chocolate dip treatment.

Tip: If you're in charge of the exchange, make it easier for your fellow cookie exchangers by dropping off Oreo packages, chocolate melts, and sprinkles in mailboxes or packaged and sent by mail.

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Happy Cookie Jar Christmas

A Mason jar cookie ingredient exchange is a great way to limit contact. Simply fill jars or Ziplock bags with all the dry ingredients, and create an instruction label. Cookie exchangers leave jars at doorsteps or mailboxes, and everyone has the start to cookies for months to come. From gingerbread to cowboy cookies, a jarred mix only requires a few wet ingredients and voila! You have cookies.

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Box. Bag. Can. Mix. Decorate.

Keeping things simple in a cookie exchange can be as easy as distributing or exchanging cookie or cake mixes, plus frosting and decorating items. The closed bags or boxes and frosting containers are not expensive and require only a few additional ingredients. Be creative with cookie packaging!

Tip: Choose a cookie exchange captain. If you're doing a neighborhood exchange, find out how much the boxes and bags plus cans of frosting cost. Have everyone Venmo or PayPal a certain amoun,t and have one person distribute.

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Plan Ahead Progressive Exchange

Another easy neighborhood exchange option is to do a progressive cookie exchange. Give each participant a specific time to distribute their completed cookies or mixes. Start off with "breakfast" cookies in the morning, and continue to a lunch chocolate chip cookie followed by an afternoon "craft" cookie. Everyone either drops off completed cookies or ingredients and decorations.

Tip: Staggering the cookie drop-off times on porches and mailboxes not only makes the exchange more fun, but it also makes social distancing easier.

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Have a Drink and Cookies

Our area Girl Scouts do an adult dessert event where wines are paired with their familiar cookies. Consider taking the hostess gift one step further and do an exchange of a favorite wine and a container of cookies.

Tip: After everything is distributed, gather online to enjoy your adult cookie pairings. Consider that everyone may not want to imbibe, and include the option of a sparkling cider pairing or hot tea, too. Always exchange cookies responsibly.

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Exchange Cookies and Culture

A cookie exchange is always a chance to try new cookies. Include new friends and neighbors in an exchange with the encouragement to add their own cultural favorites. While your favorite cookie recipes are always great to include, consider exploring a new culture or recipe to share.

Tip: As you include recipes in a compilation, ask for family background on submissions. A paragraph on the history and culture behind favorite cookies can make them even sweeter.

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Cookie a Porch!

Add the element of surprise to your cookie exchange by turning it into a holiday Santa-ing. Like a Halloween "boo-ing," participants drop off packaged cookies or cookie ingredients. Designate a week for the exchanges, distribute addresses and instructions. Everyone drops their cookies off on porches or in mailboxes as a surprise.

Tip: By choosing a set week or days, participants will know in general when to expect cookie treats so they aren't forgotten.

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