November 16, 2019

Christmas Crackers - A Time-Honored British Tradition

Image: Amazon

We get asked about British foods and traditions, etc. all the time, so we decided to start a series here on the website, where we talk about some of our favorite British foods, snacks, and traditions.  Please note that everything we mention in this series is available for purchase in our Amazon Shop, though that is not the reason for the post.  We make a small commission on sales, but items included in this series, have bee included because we either truly believe in the product, or feel it's an important item about which to inform our readers.  First up, Christmas crackers.

Christmas crackers were invented by Tom Smith of London in 1847, and are an important part of Christmas festivities throughout the United Kingdom.

Now, the word “cracker” is immediately going to make our American friends think of the sort of savory crispy biscuit or flatbread you might eat with cheese, a spinach dip, or even peanut butter, but that’s not the type of cracker we’re talking about here.   In this case, we’re speaking of a segmented cardboard tube that has been wrapped in festive paper, and which contains a small gift, a joke, and makes a popping sort of noise when pulled open.

They are usually laid at each place setting of the Christmas table.  One person grabs either end of the cracker and the two people pull until it breaks apart and one person wins the prize inside.  They’re typically pulled at Christmas dinner or festive parties.  Typically, crackers contain a brightly colored paper or foil “hat” or “crown” and, yes, brits DO wear them as they eat their dinner, regardless of the person’s age or station in life.  The tradition of the hat is thought to date back to Roman times when Saturnalia was celebrated, which also involved wearing decorative headgear.

Christmas crackers also usually have things like: a small toy, a plastic model, a little trinket or piece of jewelry, a small musical instrument like a tiny harmonica, and a joke, riddle or bit of trivia on a small piece of paper.  We have the Christmas crackers pictured above (and others) for sale in our Amazon shop.

Are Christmas crackers a tradition in your family?  If not, would you ever consider including them as part of your holiday celebrations?

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