The Story Of The Christmas Cracker

Americans have plenty of different holiday traditions, but there are customs from around the globe that also play a major role in how the season is celebrated. One perfect example of this? The Christmas cracker. It's something that has a bigger impact on British holidays than you might suspect, and every Christmas you'll find families sitting around the dinner table, enjoying roast turkey while wearing colored paper hats they found in their Christmas crackers. What Is The Christmas Cracker? The Christmas cracker isn't a food - it's a cardboard paper tube that is wrapped in bright paper and twisted at each end. Inside the tube is a banger. Each person takes an end of the cracker and pulls, and the pulling motion rubs the banger strips together and creates a bang. At holiday gatherings, each person grabs the cracker of the person next to them and pulls, triggering the bang all together and exposing the treats inside for everyone to enjoy. Often, there is a paper crown inside the cracker that is made from tissue, a tiny gift, and a motto or joke on a slip of paper - much like a fortune cookie. Those mottos and jokes are generally corny, well known, and not at all funny - but that's part of the charm. You can also make your own cracker using empty toilet or paper towel rolls and wrapping paper, filling it with whatever you like. It's a fun tradition that the British have enjoyed for centuries, and is so common you'll be hard-pressed to find a Brit who isn't familiar with it. The Invention Of The Cracker Like many great inventions, the Christmas Cracker had an inauspicious beginning. They first appeared in 1846 when Thomas Smith, a confection store owner, visited Paris and fell in love with the bon-bon. Smith was convinced that he could create his own covered treat that would set his shops apart from the others back in England. When he returned home, he got to work creating a sugared-coated almond that he wrapped in a tissue paper package. Shortly after he began selling his version of the bonbons, he decided to add love poems to the sweet little package. They were an instantaneous hit! However, Smith couldn't help but to constantly think of new ways to improve his tasty invention. One night, after tossing a log onto the fire and hearing it crackle, he made the decision to change his bonbons and place them in a log-shaped package that would bang when opened. Quickly, the popularity took off and was copied all across the country. To change things up, he swapped the sugared almond with a small gift and sold it as the 'Cosaque'. But the public took over from there and began to call the gift a 'cracker' and included treats and toys. The name stuck. In the early 1900s, the paper hat was added by Thomas Smith's sons, who also changed the love poems to limericks and mottos like the ones that are used today. While Smith was moderately successful as a confectioner, it was these crackers that became his legacy and are enjoyed around the world today.