Just like Christmas trees, no Christmas is complete without crackers. Read on to find out about the history of this festive staple.
Invented in London
In 1847, a confectioner called Tom Smith decided he wanted to introduce Londoners to the French bonbon, a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of waxed paper, which is still widely available in French patisseries today. To make his version more individual, Smith also included a love motto in each packet.
These proved to be a real winner, and over the next few years, Smith added a small gift and eventually introduced the ‘crack’ element, calling his treats ‘Bangs of Expectation’. Smith’s son was later inspired by paintings of crown-like headgear worn at the Roman festival of Saturnalia to introduce the paper hat, and a Christmas tradition was born.
Bad jokes and puns
By the 1930s, the motto inside crackers was replaced with a joke or a funny limerick, and manufacturers perfected the cheap production of the ‘crack’ element by using strips of chemically impregnated paper that react with friction to create the now-familiar bang.
Traditionally, everyone should open their crackers together round the table by crossing hands and all pulling at the same time, and the paper hat should stay on for the whole of Christmas Day.
It is estimated that nearly 160 million crackers will be pulled this Christmas. Many will be the modest versions, which include the combs, whistles, napkin rings and other small presents, but there are also luxury versions on the market, which elevate the Christmas cracker to something really special, with gifts of fine fragrances, specialist chocolates and even expensive jewellery.
Whichever type of cracker is chosen, they’re guaranteed to bring smiles and laughter to the dinner table this Christmas.