The parties typically attract about 100 visitors, Dave said, and among the regulars are neighbors Lori and Kevin Gibbons and their four kids, now ages 9 to 24. Their older children still enjoy the party, Lori Gibbons said.

"Just the other day, Mallory asked if we'd gotten the cookie party invitation yet," she said of the couple's 21-year-old daughter. "All the kids in the neighborhood, from the youngest to the oldest, look forward to it, and if they're at home or in town we see them every year at the party. It's a part of what Christmas is to them."

Butter in the oven

On the Tuesday night before the Sunday open house each year, Peggy places the sticks of butter to soften in the oven, which is not turned on.

"That's when you know the tradition is starting," she said of their time-tested, assembly-line style process.

Wednesday and Thursday nights are devoted to whipping up all the cookie varieties, and by Friday everyone is prepared to bake until 3 a.m. On Saturday, various types of icings and toppings are applied, and the finished products are stored in plastic bags overnight to retain optimum freshness.

After they're done, the family orders Chinese food — they even saved last year's order — and kicks back briefly before getting back to work. After all, there are trays to be filled, fruit and champagne punches to be made and a much-used kitchen to be cleaned in preparation for Sunday's visitors.

Since decorations are part of any festive party, the Dobbses stayed in character this year and planned ahead in that category, too. Since Peggy and Dave celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 2005 and knew that the 25th cookie party was coming, they saved those decorations in order to reuse them.

"We feel very blessed to have established such a wonderful tradition," Peggy said.

Dave wholeheartedly agreed.

"It's very much an anticipated event," he said. "It's a great neighborhood where everyone knows each other and actually likes each other. It really is a special gathering."