Christmas Crackers are a very English tradition, although they have now become a part of Christmases around the world.
Christmas Crackers were invented by Thomas Smith in 1847.
Mr Smith owned a shop in Clerkenwell, London which made wedding cake ornaments and decorations, and Tom was always on the lookout for new and more sophisticated designs for his business. He regularly travelled abroad in search of new ideas, and during a trip to Paris in 1846 he came across ‘bonbons’ – sugar almonds wrapped in a twist of tissue paper – and decided to sell them in his shop. Sales were encouraging and over the next few years Tom Smith improved on his designs. Bonbon sales seemed to be highest at Christmas, and Tom decided to develop the bonbons especially for Christmas, and started by including a small love motto in the tissue paper.
The crackle of a log in a fire provided the inspiration to add a ‘bang’ to his crackers. After some experimenting he developed a snap, but had to increase the size of his bonbon quite significantly, and so the cracker was born!
Sales jumped and Tom came up with the idea to remove the sweet from the cracker and replace it with a small gift. Over time the love mottoes were replaced by the corny Christmas cracker jokes, and the silly hats were added. Christmas Crackers were adopted by the British Royal family at the beginning of the 20th century, and their continued popularity was assured.
No-one quite knows how they became the main feature of every Christmas dinner table, but they are now found on dinner tables across the world, and the sight of a cracker on a dinner table immediately signifies Christmas dinner.
A lot of people also follow a traditional ritual of Christmas cracker pulling. Take your Christmas cracker in your right hand then cross your arms in front of you and grab your neighbour’s cracker with your left hand. This forms a cracker-pulling circle around the table and everyone pulls their crackers simultaneously.