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History of the Christmas Cracker

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published December 26th 2012
Who invented that cracking novelty?
christmas cracker
Mini cracker with truffles inside.

Christmas crackers are a traditional festive must. Just think of all the fun we'd be missing out on without them. First there's the game of tug of war, which is played across the white table-clothed dinner table between two glasses of red wine. Then there is the 'snap' you get when the cracker breaks in two. After that you have paper hats, naff jokes, and cheap plastic toys. What more could you want?

christmas cracker
Cheap cracker gifts.

But have you ever thought about the origin of Christmas crackers? I certainly hadn't. Not until yesterday, when along with all the naff jokes, was included a brief history of how they came to sit at our dinner table.

In 1840, a man called Tom Smith visited Paris and saw all the French bon bons that were for sale. One of these bon bons were sugared almonds that had been wrapped up in tissue paper. These wrapped sweets gave Smith an idea, and seven years down the line, the Christmas cracker was born.

As well as including a sweet, he also wrote a motto, and put it inside the cracker. They were an instant hit. Later, he tried to find ways to make them more popular, and was inspired by the crackling sound made by a log fire. Smith found a way to make the crackers go 'snap' when you puled it apart, and creating the crackers we know and love today.

His three sons, Tom, Walter, and Henry, eventually took over the business. Walter was the one who came up with the idea of adding paper hats, and continually tried to think up new gifts that could be put inside the crackers.

christmas cracker
Racing brussel sprouts

Today, crackers come in all shapes and sizes. The crackers we bought had a game inside. You were given a playmat, and inside each cracker was a mechanical brussel sprout that each player would race across the mat. We had a similar game last year, only with penguins. Admittedly it didn't work very well, as the wind up toys did not always move when you wound them up, but that just added to the fun.
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Why? Festive fun
When: Christmas
Where: At home
Cost: Varies
Your Comment
Wow, I've never really thought about the history behind the Christmas cracker, or Bon Bon.
by Ms. Samantha (score: 2|362) 2120 days ago
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