Our family loves the Christmas Crackers. It has become a fun accessory for the Christmas Eve family dinner.
I don’t know when our French and Japanese family adopted this very English tradition, but it got me thinking.
Where and when did the holiday Christmas Cracker become a major welcomed guest on the big day.
A Christmas Cracker is a cardboard paper tube, wrapped in brightly colored paper and twisted at both ends. There is a banger inside the cracker, two strips of chemically impregnated paper that react with friction so that when the cracker is pulled apart by two people, the cracker makes a bang.
Christmas crackers are a traditional Christmas favorite around the world but especially in the UK.
They were first made in about 1845-1850 by a London sweet maker called Tom Smith.
He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper). He came back to London and tried selling sweets like that in England and also included a small motto or riddle in with the sweet. But they didn’t sell very well.
However, one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half.
Crackers were originally called ‘cosaques’ and were thought to be named after the ‘Cossack’ soldiers who had a reputation for riding on their horses and firing guns into the air!
When Tom died, his expanding cracker business was taken over by his three sons, Tom, Walter and Henry. Walter introduced the hats into crackers and he also traveled around the world looking for new ideas for gifts to put in the crackers.
The company built up a big range of ‘themed’ crackers. There were ones for bachelors and spinsters (single men and women), where the gifts were things like false teeth and wedding rings! There were also crackers for Suffragettes (women who campaigned to get women the vote), war heroes and even Charlie Chaplain! Crackers were also made for special occasions like Coronations.
The British Royal Family still has special crackers made for them today!
The Christmas Crackers that are used today are short cardboard tubes wrapped in colorful paper. There is normally a Cracker next to each plate on the Christmas dinner table. When the crackers are pulled – with a bang! – a colorful party hat, a toy or gift and a festive joke falls out! The party hats look like crowns and it is thought that they symbolize the crowns that might have been worn by the Wise Men.
Christmas Day, families can be found sitting around their dining tables enjoying a traditional lunch of roast turkey with all the trimmings – and all, regardless of age, wearing colored paper hats. It is rumored that even the Queen wears her paper hat over lunch!
Each person takes the end of the cracker and pulls (as below). Or if there is a group around the table, everyone crosses their arms to pull all the crackers at once. Everyone holds their own cracker in their right hand and pulls their neighbor’s cracker with their free left hand.
Inside the cracker there is a paper crown made from tissue paper, a motto or joke on a slip of paper and a little gift. It is a standing joke that the mottos in crackers are unfunny, corny and often very well known, as the same jokes have been appearing in crackers for decades!
Crackers can be made from scratch using empty toilet rolls and tissue paper: the maker can then choose small personalized gifts for their guests.
Christmas crackers are a British tradition dating back to Victorian times when in the early 1850s, London confectioner Tom Smith started adding a motto to his sugared almond bon-bons which he sold wrapped in a twisted paper package. As many of his bon-bons were bought by men to give to women, many of the mottos were simple love poems.
The paper hat was added to the cracker in the early 1900s by his sons and by the end of the 1930s, the love poems had been replaced by jokes or limericks. The cracker was soon adopted as a traditional festive custom and today virtually every household has at lest one box of crackers to pull over Christmas.
The idea of wearing a paper crown may have originated from the Twelfth Night celebrations, where a King or Queen was appointed to look over the proceedings.
Crackers were also made for special occasions like Coronations. The British Royal Family still has special crackers made for them today!
The biggest Christmas cracker pull was done by 1,478 people at an event organized by Honda Japan at Tochigi Proving Ground, Tochigi, Japan, on 18 October 2009. Now that would be a lot of bangs!
Crackers are famous for their very bad jokes! Here are some bad Christmas themed Cracker jokes!
Q: What do you call an elf who sings? A: a wrapper!
Q: What do Santa’s elves learn in school? A: The Elfabet.
Q: When does New Year’s Day come before Christmas Day? A: Every year!
Q: What does Santa like to eat? A: A jolly roll.
Q: How does Santa take pictures? A: With his North Pole-aroid.
Q: What do you get if you cross mistletoe and a duck? A: A Christmas Quacker.
Q: What do call Santa when he stops moving? A: Santa Pause!
Q: Why does everybody like Frosty the Snowman? A: Because he is so cool!
Q: What did the bald man say when he got a comb for Christmas? A: Thanks, I’ll never part with it!
Q: What did Adam say on the day before Christmas? A: “It’s Christmas, Eve!”
Q: What do you get from a cow at the North Pole? A: Ice cream.
Q: Why is Christmas just like your job? A: You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.
Q: Why do mummys like the holidays? A: Because of all the wrapping!
Q: What do you get when you eat the Christmas decorations? A: Tinsel-itus.
Q: What do you get if Santa goes down the chimney when the fire is lit? A: Crisp Cringle!
Q: Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? A: Because every buck is dear to him.
Q: Why are turkeys wiser than chickens? A: Ever heard of Kentucky Fried Turkey?
Q: What do you call a smelly Santa? A: “Farter Christmas”
Q: If athletes get athletes foot, what do astronauts get? A: Mistletoe!
Q: What does Santa like to do in the garden? A: Hoe, hoe, hoe!
Q: Why don’t aliens celebrate Christmas? A: Because they don’t want to give away their presence.
Q: Why is Santa so jolly? A: Because he knows where all the naughty girls live.
Q: What do you get when you cross an archer with a gift-wrapper? A: Ribbon hood.
Q: What do you call an old snowman? A: Water
Q: Which reindeer likes to clean? A: Comet
Q: What do Santa’s elves drive? A: Minivans.
Q: Why doesn’t Santa have any kids? A: He only comes once a year.
Q: What do monkeys sing at Christmas? A: Jungle bells, jungle bells!
Q: What do you call Frosty the Snowman in May? A: A puddle!
Q: Where do reindeer go to dance? A: Christmas balls!
Q: What kind of candle burns longer, a red candle or a green candle? A: Neither, candles always burn shorter!
Q: What do Santa’s elves drink? A: Minnesoda.
Q: What did the Gingerbread Man put on his bed? A: A cookie sheet!
Q: Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve? A: Because it soot’s him source:
Q: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a shark? A: Frost bite!
Q: What happened to the man who shoplifted a calendar at Christmas? A: He got 12 months!
Q: What do you call an Eskimo cow? A: An Eskimoo.
Q: Whats the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet? A: The Christmas alphabet has Noel.
Q: What breakfast cereal does Frosty the Snowman eat? A: Snowflakes.
Q: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? A: Claustrophobic.
Q: How much did Santa pay for his sleigh? A: Nothing, it was on the house!
Q: What do you get if you cross Santa with a detective? A: Santa Clues!
Q: What do you call a cat sitting on the beach on Christmas Eve? A: Sandy Claws.
Q: Why the Christmas tree can’t stand up? A: It doesn’t have legs.
Q: What do you call an obnoxious reindeer? A: RUDEolph.
Q: Where does the snowman hide his money? A: In the snow bank.
Q: Why was Santa’s little helper depressed? A: Because he had low elf esteem.
Q: What do you call a can wearing a Christmas hat? A. A Merry Can (American)
Q. What happened when the snowwoman got angry at the snowman? A. She gave him the cold shoulder.
Q: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? A. Frostbite.
Q: Who hides in the bakery at Christmas? A: A mince spy!
Q: Why did the Christmas tree go to the barber? A: It needed to be trimmed.
Q: What do the elves sing to Santa Claus on his birthday? A: Freeze a jolly good fellow . . .
Q: What do you call a wet animal? A: “A reindeer”
Q: What’s the difference between snowmen and snowladies? A: Snowballs.
Q: What kind of motorcycle does Santa ride? A: Holly Davidson.
Q: What do snowmen wear on their heads? A: Ice caps.
Q: What nationality is Santa Claus? A: North Polish.
Q: What did Mary Poppins want from Santa? A: Supercalifragilisticexpialisnowshoes!
Q: What do you call a bankrupt Santa? A: Saint Nickel-less.
Q: What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa? A: A rebel without a Claus.
Q: What do cats and dogs call Santa Clause? A: Santa paws!!!
Q: What is a snowman’s favorite lunch? A: An Iceberger!
Q: What do vampires put on their Christmas turkey? A: Grave-y.
Q: Why are Christmas trees such bad knitters? A: They are always dropping their needles.
Q: Why wasn’t the turkey hungry at Christmas time? A: He was stuffed!
Q: What did the ghost say to Santa Claus? A: I’ll have a boo Christmas without you.
Q: What do you call a snowman party? A: A Snowball!
Q: What do you call Santa’s helpers? A: Subordinate clauses
Q: Why was Santa’s little helper depressed? A: Because he had low elf esteem.
Q: What’s red, white and blue at Christmas time? A: A sad candy cane!
Q: What is a parents favorite Christmas carol? A: Silent night!
Q: What do you get when you cross a Christmas tree with an apple? A: A pineapple!
Q: What’s the best thing to put into Christmas pie? A: Your teeth!