Home > Christmas Traditions
Crackers were invented by London confectioner Tom Smith in
1847. He was inspired to add the "crackle" element when he heard the
crackle of a log he'd just put on the fire. The size of the paper wrapper
had to be increased to incorporate the banger mechanism, and the sweet
itself was eventually dropped, to be replaced by a small gift. The other
elements of the modern cracker, the gifts, paper hats and varied designs,
were all introduced by Tom Smith's son, Walter Smith, as ways of
distinguishing the company from the many copycat cracker manufacturers
which had suddenly sprung up.
Christmas crackers, also known as bon-bons in Australia, are
an integral part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom and in
other Commonwealth countries. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube
wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an
oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, and, much in
the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly.
In one version of the tradition the person with the larger
portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In
another each person will have their own cracker and will keep its contents
regardless of whose end they were in. Typically these contents are a
coloured paper hat or crown; a small toy or other trinket and a motto, a
joke or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper. Crackers are often
pulled after Christmas dinner or at parties.