Mix and match guest room baskets. This is another holiday task on the list of "you have to do it anyway, why not share the hassle. Also, ho ho ho." If all of you are anticipating house guests, swap stuff to go in those thoughtful holiday guest welcome baskets. You can do this with Christmas music in the background and defrost some mini quiches from Costco and call it a day. Make a list of who will bring what, not to ruin the surprise but to make it so not everyone picks up hand sanitizer. It's a really fun chance to buy local coffees, chocolate, movie gift cards, hand soap, holiday tea towels and so forth, without doing a lot of shopping – just exchanging.
This is also a fun way to disperse some fruits of your own labor, like natural make-your-own lip balms. Reminiscent of a cookie swap, you can learn to make your own at a class from the Homestead Atlanta (6:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 20, $10) or stop on your way to the swap to buy all-natural, locally crafted skincare goodies from area farmer's markets.
Even if you're not the family or office holiday dictator, make it a point to plan way ahead if you'd like to move on from a long-standing cookie swap tradition. People who might accept the idea enthusiastically in early November will not be as agreeable as it creeps closer to Christmas and all their holiday anxieties return like Santa at the back of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Worried about disturbing generations-old traditions and being haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future? Remember, if no one ever planned something new, we'd still be celebrating the season by cramming huge logs into the fire while our Viking friends drank mead.
And maybe you'll be hailed as a hero when you timidly speak up to say you have plenty of broken, green sugar cookie shards in the freezer and would like to try something different. Other rebels with Christmas tradition suggestions have gotten a warm welcome after the initial shock wears off, and you may too. (Surely this was the case with the first person who said, "Wow, we could really do without these mushy, flavorless chestnuts roasting on our open fire this Christmas.") The very best argument of all, if it comes to an argument, is the reassuring truth. Let everyone know if you don't like the substitute, you can always return to the cookie swap next year.