The History Of Christmas Cookie Swaps Explained

As the holiday season approaches, one of the main aspects of celebrating it will include spending a lot of time with friends and family. Many of these gatherings often require guests to do a combination of cooking and eating, and of course, the occasional swapping. The idea of exchanging foods and baked treats is a popular custom during the holidays, and for Christmas in particular, the cookie wars commence.

A Christmas cookie swap typically will include several people who will commit to baking a specific cookie. The goal is to bring out your best individual cookie recipe for the ultimate taste-testing. The gathering usually happens on a designated day and participants expect to exchange, eat, and go home with different types of cookies other than the ones they came with, says Sugar and Charm. The sweets can range from a variety of sizes, colors, tastes, and preparation styles. It's a common tradition that millions of people partake in every year, but where did it come from?

Cookie-swapping history

Depending on who you believe, the earliest example of a Christmas cookie swap in America dates back to the 17th century. The Dutch brought the custom with them from the Old World (via Macrina Bakery). The first recorded "swap" apparently occurred at a Dutch-oriented event in New York (then New Amsterdam) in 1703, says National Today. The word cookie actually comes from the Dutch as well. The anglophone pronunciation of the word koekje resulted in what we call the sweet treat today (via Today I Found Out).

The Dutch carried on their tradition, and usually did it during their holiday season. At some point other groups picked up on their customs, and history says that even George Washington hosted a cookie party, heavily influenced by the Dutch, per Christian Science Monitor. At the party, Washington served a variety of cookies.

As other immigrant groups came to the U.S., so did their customs and cookie recipes. So while the recipes expanded, the Dutch tradition of hosting gatherings with the main attraction being cookies remained a practice. Now every year during a time when most people are with family, the centuries-old cookie swap is a commonly practiced event. And the official swap day? National Today tells us it's designated asĀ December 22.