The History and Facts of Christmas Crackers – Xmas Traditions

Some of you may be very aware and some might not know what a Christmas Cracker is; therefore, here is a little synopsis.

A Christmas Cracker is a festive table decoration that contains small tokens/gifts with a note, poem, or joke inside that makes a “popping” noise when opened.  Opening these fun tubes is half the fun.

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So, how did the tradition of Christmas Crackers get started? Let’s read on and find out,

In the beginning

A young lad named Tom Smith worked in a bakery/candy shop in London.  In his spare time, he experimented with new and creative decorating ideas/designs.

He soon opened his own shop in East London.

Tom was visiting Paris when he crossed paths with the “bon bon” which was an almond covered in sugar and wrapped in colorful paper that was twisted at both ends.

Mr. Smith took the “bon bon” back to London and they sold very well during the Christmas season, but sales died once the New Year rolled around.

Next 45 years

Tom nurtured his business while making an effort to further develop the “bon bon” to make it more appealing to customers all year round.

The gift of personalization

He placed a love poem inside the tissue paper in the hopes that lovers would find this a unique way to express their love.

Regular customers loved this new product and profits increased.

As time went on, Tom Smith was well known for his wedding cake designs and confectionery business, but one of his passions was still to develop the “bon bon” product as the majority of sales were still during the Christmas Season.

And then came the Crackle

Sales were popular but limited until Tom Smith made the product “crackle”.

As the story goes, Tom was sitting in front of his fireplace and was memorized by the sparks and cracks that the fire expelled.

He thought “wouldn’t it be fun if the “bon bon” product opened with a “crack” when pulled apart”.

A banger (two strips of chemically impregnated paper that made a noise when pulled apart) was added to the product.

The name of this new product began as “cosaques” but quickly became “crackers” that we know of today.

The product needed to be made larger to accommodate the banger mechanism and small trinkets such as shoe horns, playing cards, tape measure, tweezers, pens, bottle openers, and the like, replaced the original small sweet treats.

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Passed down from generations

Tom Smith passed away on March 13, 1869, at the tender age of 46 and he left his successful business to his three sons: Tom, Henry, and Walter.

Specialty writers were hired to compose fun, snappy, and relevant notes for every special occasion and holiday to be put inside the cracker.

Walter, the youngest son, traveled the world in search of fun, relevant, and unusual ideas for the surprise gifts found inside the cracker.

How to properly open/pull a Christmas Crackle

Beautiful Christmas Crackers are usually placed next to each place setting on the Christmas dinner table.

Crackers are usually shared with two or more individuals.

The traditional way to pull open a cracker is for everyone at the table to cross your arms and holds their cracker in their right hand and slowly pulls and twists their neighbors’ cracker with their left hand, until it pulls apart.

A simultaneous “bang” should be heard to kick off the night’s festivities.

Not just for Christmas

Themed crackers were made for all occasions and all situations.

For instance, there were crackers made for the postal office, single men and women, war heroes, and the famous Charlie Chaplain.

To this day, the British Royal Family still has special crackers made for their celebrations.

  1. The “Millionaire’s Crackers” contained a silver box with a beautiful piece of jewelry inside.
  2. VeryFirstTo’s was an on-line company that created some of the most luxurious and custom Christmas crackers.

Many businesses today offer some type of cracker for the Christmas season, such as:

  1. Tiffany & Co. has a Christmas Cracker with a value of over $200,000.00.
  2. For chocolate lovers, there is the Godiva Chocolatier Party Crackers Set.
  3. Chefs will delight in the Fortnum & Mason Christmas Crackers that offer a unique silver plated gift such as a bottle opener and wine bottle pourer.

Learn More With the Help of Video

Main Points About Christmas Crackers

  1. A Christmas cracker is made up of a paper hat, a joke (could be a bad joke) and a gift. The quality of the gift depends on how much is paid for the crackers.
  2. Some of the gifts that have been received over the years include whistles, pencil, pencil sharpener, measuring tape, jewelry, perfume, and expensive gadgets.
  3. The invention of the Christmas crackers is credited to a British confectioner Thomas Smith in 1846.
  4. While on a trip to Paris in 1840, Tom noticed the French ‘bon bon’, they were almond sweets wrapped in pretty papers.
  5. When he came back to London, he decided to experiment. He started selling similar sweets with a little riddle in it.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Christmas Crackers

  1. How does Christmas cracker work?

    A cracker consists of a cardboard tube with bright colored paper wrapped around it and tied at each end. A small explosive is attached to the cracker which goes through the center and then finally gives rise to the explosion.

    The snap is made from two strips of a card whose ends are glued together. Now with the gentle pulling of the cardboard, the cracker can be easily snapped.

  2. What are the most expensive Christmas crackers?

    It has been noted that the costliest Christmas cracker is around 5 million dollars. It consists of a Bracelet and a DuPont pen.

  3. Is there gunpowder in Christmas crackers?

    Yes, almost every Christmas cracker contains a little bit of gunpowder. This tiny amount of gunpowder is required to initiate the chain reaction which finally results in the busting of the cracker.

  4. Why are English Christmas crackers not allowed on planes?

    British Airways and US Airways do not allow carry explosives on the flight. But the British Airways gives the relaxation of carrying two packets of Christmas crackers that too in the case if they are sealed and not opened.

  5. What can I use instead of Christmas crackers?

    Instead of using the Christmas crackers people in foreign countries use to visit any liquor store. From there they use to get gin or whiskey or any other tonic. They also get a whistle and a score sheet to maintain the same. This is a fun game and can be used as an alternative for Christmas crackers.

  6. What makes a cracker snap?

    Christmas crackers are made from a long tube of cardboard which has gunpowder in it and other flammable substances. When the cracker is put on fire, gunpowder catches the fire and then explodes which gives a snap to the paperwork.

  7. What can you use instead of crackers?

    Instead of using the Christmas crackers people in foreign countries use to visit any liquor store. From there they use to get gin or whiskey or any other tonic.

    They also get a whistle and a score sheet to maintain the same. This is a fun game and can be used as an alternative for Christmas crackers.

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Conclusion

Invented in 1846 by Thomas Smith, Christmas Crackers were first sold in England before Christmas.

He got the idea from the bon-bons in Paris, a sugar almond which was placed in tissue paper.

At 1850 he started including mottos or small poems in them and in 1860 he added the banger which simply two strings impregnated with chemicals to make a loud noise when pulled apart.

Word Cloud for Christmas Crackers

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas Crackers. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_cracker
  2. https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/magazine/life-around-world/christmas-crackers
  3. https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Christmas-Crackers/

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