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December 22 is National Cookie Exchange Day and the glorious occasion when festively-decorated cookie tins and boxes appear at cookie exchange parties. It’s a classic celebration where the host throws a holiday party for family and friends, to which everyone brings delicious homemade cookies to share around. The toughest decision is which cookies to take. Wintertime classics like thumbprint jam cookies or gingerbread are always festive, but since this day celebrates all cookies, go ahead and add in some funfetti cookies or lemon squares!
History of National Cookie Exchange Day
According to some culinary historians, our modern-day idea of cookies may have been a happy byproduct of cake-baking. The earliest modern cookies could have been dollops of cake batter used to test if the oven was hot enough. Technically, a cookie is any kind of hand-held sweet cake, crisp or soft, so this counts in our book!
We know very early cookies came out of Persia in the 7th century, as this was very near where sugar originated, and Persia was one of the earliest empires to get a hold of it. When Spain was invaded and after the Crusaders established the spice trade, sugar, and the delectable cookies that it produced began to spread throughout Europe. In the 14th century, sweet cookies could be purchased along the streets in Paris.
Cookie recipes started to appear in cookbooks in the 1500s and baking became a serious profession in the 17th and 18th centuries. Cookies became works of art and featured careful measurements of particularly-chosen ingredients. In the late 1600s, Dutch, English, and Scotch immigrants brought European cookies, like shortbreads and simple butter cookies, to America. Particularly in the South, these “tea cakes” took off and were the pride of the Southern housewife.
Cookies were uniquely influenced by American geography once they arrived in the country. Oranges from the West coast and coconuts from the South gradually became included in cookie recipes as railroads were laid to connect the nation. In the 1930s, iceboxes gave way to icebox cookies. The 1930s saw the accidental advent of the ever-famous chocolate chip cookies, when the Toll House Restaurant owner, Ruth Graves Wakefield, thought the chocolate chips would melt into the batter when baked.
Cookie exchanges are a centuries-old tradition dating back to medieval times. The classic idea is of a holiday party in which guests bring a selection of homemade cookies to trade with one another. While the festive holiday has sweet beginnings, the etiquette associated with them has become elaborate and strict. Guests are judged for the quantity and quality of their offering, and cookbooks like The Cookie Party Cookbook outline the acceptable and unacceptable practices.
Today, cookie exchange traditions live on in families and friendship groups. Though there is traditionally a strict etiquette that accompanies the party, you don’t have to adhere to it. The spirit of the day is the joy of cookies, so get together a group of friends and celebrate the treat on your own terms!
National Cookie Exchange Day FAQs
Are there other cookie-related holidays?
Yes! December 4 is National Cookie Day. National Baking Week also falls between October 14 and October 20.
When is National Cookie Exchange Day?
Where is National Cookie Exchange Day observed?
Throughout the United States.
National Cookie Exchange Day Activities
Try a new cookie recipe
Maybe you’ve never tried to bake Grammy’s secret World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe - dig it up and give it a try! Certainly, you have an old cookbook somewhere in your closet and it probably has a recipe you are yet to give a go. If not, look up the most extravagant and drool-worthy cookie recipe you can find to rule your cookie exchange with.
Have a cookie party!
There’s no better party than a cookie party. Whether your friends are coming over to bake, decorate, or simply taste test those cookies, everyone can get behind a baked goods invitation. Throw on some holiday music and let your cookie party be a celebration of friendship (and sugar)!
Start a Bake Sale for charity!
Ah, the classic bake sale. Who doesn’t remember these from childhood? The best part, however, is that you can use your fantastic cookies to support organizations that do meaningful work in your community or help a cause you care about. Not to mention, you get to spend a fun afternoon selling cookies and meeting new people.
Take the What Kind Of Cookie Are You? Quiz
5 Delicious Facts About Cookies
A Cookie to Rule Them All
Today, Oreo cookies are the best-selling on the market, followed by the ever-popular Chips Ahoy.
Official Cookies of the State
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania both have chocolate chip as their Official State Cookie - way to keep it classic!
In France, the most popular cookie is the light and fluffy meringue; in Germany, they prefer Springerle, an anise-flavored biscuit that is designed with a pressed image on top.
Cookies in Bulk
The most cookies baked in a single hour was recorded by 16 bakers representing Hassett’s Bakery in 2013 - and they totaled 4,695 cookies!
A Happy Accident
Some believe that the first chocolate chip cookie was made entirely by accident - the baker who invented the Toll House Cookie thought the chocolate pieces would melt. When they didn’t, the classic cookie was born!
Why We Love National Cookie Exchange Day
Cookies come in endless varieties!
Snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, double chocolate - and those are just the standards. If regular flavors don’t float your boat, never fear - in a cookbook somewhere, there is a cookie for you. Throughout human history we have created such a variety of cookie recipes it’s simply impossible to try them all. Lace-up your apron and get cooking new recipes, cookie exchangers!
Cookies can be baked with friends and family
What better way to bond than chatting while the smell of cookies in the oven wafts through the air? Recruit some friends or family to help you concoct your cookies, and enjoy all the laughter and conversation that follows.
Cookie exchange brings people together
Nothing brings us together like baked goods. Whether or not you were the baker of the cookies you gift, it’s rewarding to see the smile on the face of the person you hand them off to and the box full of fresh cookies they hand you back just feels like a warm hug.
National Cookie Exchange Day dates