Christmas Crackers: An English Tradition
Christmas Crackers are such a part of an English holiday celebration, I couldn’t imagine not pulling a cracker and putting a really silly paper crown on my head while eating Christmas dinner. So, where does this tradition come from?
It’s particular to the UK and the commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The Irish have a cracker celebration too. It all started as a candy wrapper idea. A chap called Tom Smith originated the concept in 1847 with fancy wrappers for his bon-bon candies, or sweets, as the English call them. When his candy market fell flat, he resorted to a different concept. He thought of making his sweet wrapper much bigger and stuffing the wrapper with fun stuff and, more importantly, inserting a thin tape that would explode into a crack when pulled . He filled his cracker with ornaments and silly riddles and hats . And hey presto – Christmas was never the same! One is supposed to cross hands around the table and pull the crackers at exactly the same time. Then the hat ceremony, which is often facilitated around the dinner table complete with rowdy behavior.
There is even a memorial water fountain to Tom Smith and his family in Finsbury Square in the center of London near the Barbican area.
My mum used to make crackers in a factory just after the war. Never a shortage of paper crowns around our house when growing up. It was the closest I ever got to the aristocracy!