Christmas crackers are a big part of Christmas. Sometimes called ‘bon-bons’, they are used in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Obviously you know what’s inside them: a small (cheap) toy, a paper hat (I like wearing lots of these!) and a cheesy joke or trivia question. In Russia, they use them on their New Year’s celebrations (more important to them than Christmas) and they are a bigger show, with fire and smoke (quite pyrotechnical, lol) and only used by one person, instead of two people pulling it.
The first crackers were said to be used in the 1840s, where they were known as ‘bon-bons’. People say that a man called Thomas J Smith invented them in 1847 to promote his bon-bon sweets. He twisted them up in paper (the origin of the traditional sweet wrappers). But they weren’t so popular and didn’t sell very well. Then, to increase sales, he included a motto in the wrapper (like a fortune cookie), but this didn’t improve his sales much.
Then, inspired by the sound of a crackling log put on the fire, he added the sound (the crack) we hear when we pull it. This meant he had to make the wrapper bigger to hold it. Like most things on Earth, the design evolved and eventually the sweet inside was replaced with a toy. These were called ‘Cosaque’. People didn’t really catch onto this new name, and were called ‘crackers’ as other types (not just Thomas J Smith’s crackers) came along. His son, Walter Smith, added the paper hats and things we know in crackers today to make his different from all the other companies.
Newsflash! The Oxford English Dictionary records crackers as above, but evidence shows that they may have been available earlier. This letter, written by Lt. Colonel Felton Hervey in 1817, says:
The night before last Arthur Hill desired me to give a letter to the Duchess of Richmond, which I did very innocently. It contained one of these crackers, called Cossacks, which are sold in the fair here. It went off, and the duchess also, into one of the most violent fits of laughing hysterics ever witnessed. I am happy to say she does not think me guilty. I wonder it did not kill the old woman.
It sounds kind of strange to me. But anyway, time for a random fact: In 2009, the shop Harrod’s sold a cracker worth £637.80 ($1000)! I wonder what kind of amazing (well, they should be amazing, considering the price) gifts were in there…?!
AGAIN, I hope you learned something, credits to Wikipedia, and thank you for reading.
Your cracking (bad joke) blogger, Jaz