Christmas Crackers with a Tartan Twist
the Christmas Season
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!'"
~ "King John's Christmas," A.A. Milne (1882-1956)
The Christmas Cracker became popular in Victorian times beginning in 1847, when confectioner Tom Smith (1823–1869) of London created the crackers to help flagging sales of his bon-bon sweets which he sold in a twist of paper. Smith started by inserting love messages into the wrappers of the sweets (similar to fortune cookies) but then added the "crackle" and "bang" mechanism allegedly after hearing the crackle of a log he had just put on a fire! 🎉 👑 🎄
Deb's Christmas Cracker
Becoming popular in Victorian times, the Christmas Cracker is a favourite tabletop tradition part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Commonwealth countries such as Australia (where they are sometimes known as bon-bons), Canada, New Zealand and South Africa and increasingly, the United States.
Many versions of pulling the cracker exist - in one version, the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In another, each person has their own cracker and keeps its contents regardless of whose end they were in - typically a coloured paper hat, a small toy, a small plastic model or other trinket, and a motto, a joke, a riddle or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper.
The paper hats, with the appearance of crowns, are usually worn when eating Christmas dinner echoes back to the tradition of wearing festive hats during the Roman time of Saturnalia celebrations.
Tradition tells of how Tom Smith (1823–1869) of London invented crackers in 1847. He created the crackers as a development of his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). As sales of bon-bons slumped, Smith began to come up with new promotional ideas. His first tactic was to insert love messages into the wrappers of the sweets (similar to fortune cookies) but then added the "crackle" when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on a fire.
The size of the paper wrapper had to be increased to incorporate the banger mechanism and the sweet was eliminated in favour of trinkets and other small toys.
Interestingly, the new product was initially marketed as the Cosaque (French for Cossack), but the onomatopoeic "cracker" soon became the commonly used name, as rival varieties came on the market.
The longest Christmas cracker pulling chain consisted of 1081 people and was achieved by The Harrodian School in London on 10 December 2015!
To see the dance performed by the Y.Y. Family Christmas Party, Mielparque Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, 2013, scroll down.
And for some of the worst of the Christmas Cracker jokes, click the Norman Rockwell painting "The Christmas Cracker," 1919.