Debbie Andrews and Claire Kirchen hosted a cookie exchange for
their neighbors.

The Christmas holiday is a frenzied flurry of activity with gift giving, travel, and a multitude of details to complete. There is usually no time to really savor personal relationships among friends and neighbors because there are so many chores to attend to at home.

Neighbors Claire Kirchen and Debbie Andrews bemoaned the fact that over the past few years they had lost touch with much of their neighborhood as homes changed owners and lives became busy. The two women agreed that frayed threads of friendship needed to be rewoven. How? With a cookie exchange!

Starting in mid-November, they made plans to invite all of the 30-some women in their neighborhood to a 90-minute tea party. It would be a relatively simple affair: Claire would host, Debbie would use her incredible skills to compile a cookbook of recipes supplied by guests who were invited to bring four dozen homemade cookies to trade among the group.

Keeping it “simple” was the trick. Nobody had time to invest days and weeks in preparation. Guests would bring their own favorite cup for tea. Claire would make two or three small snacks. Debbie would keep an eye on RSVPs and make nametags so learning everybody’s name would be easier for all.

Over the weeks, a few fine points were worked out to avoid chaos in the cookie trade and allow guests to visit with as many of their neighbors as possible in 90 minutes. A “cookie elf” was enlisted to do the actual exchange of cookies and assure that everybody got a sampling of everybody else’s goodies.

Home decorations would be kept to a manageable festive touch, without overcrowding the living room and kitchen. Every guest needed to be able to circulate the tea and food service and then sit and chat.

Dec. 18 came quickly! But by keeping it simple, the hostesses were ready to welcome their 20 guests who arrived bearing boxes of their best-loved cookie and a printed copy of the recipe.

Cookies were whisked to the “Cookie Barn” where a friendly elf set out to fill a huge

platter full of delectable cookies for each guest. Voila! All would have a wonderful variety of cookies to share with loved ones without spending days baking.

In a blink of an eye, it was time for all to return home to their busy lives. As the guests departed, laden with cookies and gifts prepared by Debbie and Claire, sighs of contentment and smiles of happiness signaled that a bond of newfound friendship now connected these ladies who lived next door.

There would no longer be just simple acknowledging waves as they drove past on their way to do errands. There was now a real seed of neighborliness planted, and true friendship among the women who lived just down the street. The Christmas spirit found a home that day.