On Sunday, I gathered some 30 beloved friends and family members at my house for a holiday cookie decorating party. I say that as though I’ve ever baked or decorated cookies in adulthood. I most certainly have not, but the idea arose when I told a friend that my husband and I wanted to throw a daytime, kid-friendly holiday party with all of our favorite people, but we were worried about the potential awkwardness of generational gaps (saayyyy if the subject of “OK, boomer” arose) and melding pals from different life phases. This friend smartly suggested cookie decorating—a focused activity to take the pressure off conversation and get people to sit next to each other without actually having to talk to each other.
Brilliant. Genius. What the holidays are all about: Strained proximity.
Then commenced a Pinterest binge, because how else does someone as unqualified as myself figure out how to approximate such classic, wholesome holiday goodness, let alone how to competently roll out cookie dough? Soon, my original vision of a tray of cookies and store bought frosting morphed into two-dozen different cookie cutouts, homemade icing in five different colors, 10 different kinds of sprinkles, and roughly 100 cookies. Piping bags and piping tips were purchased. Suddenly, a “hot chocolate bar” felt necessary. Clearly, I had been bamboozled by the batshit insane bar-setting of Pinterest partyland.
But then I threw the party and realized I was the one doing the bamboozling. Friends and family members sat hunched around two tables, piping bags in hand. They meticulously dotted evergreen frosting on cookies shaped like Christmas trees, used toothpicks to make a yellow-and-blue marble wash on dough dreidels, and created carefully delineated stripes of different kinds of sprinkles on sugar-cookie mittens. It seems the Pinterest cookie aesthetic is absorbed through cultural osmosis, because here were my friends, none of them exactly Martha Stewart acolytes, reproducing the current trends (there are trends!) in holiday cookie decorating. These pals of mine laid their masterpiece cookies out to dry and here was the rub. Here is what none of those pretty Pinterest photos point out: Frosting is sticky and wet? It takes a long time for frosting to dry? Longer than a party?
The host gets to, has to, keep all of the dozens of diligently and lovingly decorated, Pinterest-perfect cookies. You ply friends and family with some snacks and drinks, and they make you several baking pans’ worth of edible pieces of art. A cookie decorating party is more accurately an occasion on which you trick your loved ones into making you gifts. Then you simply have to eat those gifts yourself (or else give them away to coworkers, your daycare provider, and the FedEx delivery guy, thereby looking the big-hearted Yuletide giver).
Cookie decorating parties are a holiday scam, pass it on.