Christmas Crackers? Pulling Crackers around the Christmas Dinner table is one of the traditions that come hand in hand with turkey, Christmas pud and a glass of wine.
We sit there with silly hats on, telling awful jokes and then fiddle with the tacky toys that shoot across the table once the cracker has been pulled.
But where did it all begin? Here’s a brief history of how Christmas Crackers became a very important part of the festive season.
It all goes back to the early 1840’s when it seemed Christmas was all the rage. Charles Dickens was in the process of penning ‘A Christmas Carol’ and suddenly we’re envisioned with a Victorian Christmas scene.
Cold, foggy nights with dimly lit shops offering their wares on crowded London back streets. The suggestion of snow, ice and wrapped up Victorians happily going about their business form an atmosphere of festive spirits.
It was around this time that a fellow called Tom Smith invented the Christmas Cracker. He had been to Paris earlier and seen the popularity of bonbons among the Parisians. These sugared almonds wrapped in bright twists of paper were selling well so the entrepreneur in Smith brought the idea back to Blighty.
However, the popularity of bonbons faded, but that didn’t put off the Victorian and with a few prototypes, came up with the Cracker.
He wanted it to be a novelty. So hearing the crackle and pop of his logged fire, he developed a friction device that cracked when pulled apart. He got rid of the bonbon and instead, replaced it with a motto and a trinket.
At first, these crackers were not even meant specifically for Christmas. They could be used for any celebration such as a birthday or an anniversary. It was only when one Christmas, a rival company decided for a big push at Christmas time. Smith, not to be outdone, worked his employees through the night for a few weeks and saturated the market in time for Christmas.
He won, of course, and it became a tradition that Christmas Crackers should be more relevant to the Festive season. They were originally called 'Cosaques' after Cossack soldiers who would ride their horses, firing shots into the air as they went. Now they’re simply known as crackers because of the ‘crack’ sound and not a Russian in sight!
Since those early days, hats have been added and in some quarters are said to represent the Saturnalia festival or maybe the Anglo-Saxon Twelfth night celebrations where the crown was to be worn by the King or Queen. Either way, the traditions still exists to this day.
Tom Smith died in 1869, but his company went from strength to strength when his son took over and expanded the business.
Today, the Tom Smith brand is stronger than ever producing over 50 million Christmas Crackers each year and even holds the Royal warrant dating back to 1906.
So the next time you pull a cracker, you will know that you’re carrying on a tradition that started over 170-years ago. It became synonymous with Christmas because of the little ‘gift’ in each cracker...and a case of who could sell the most back in the 1840’s!
Below are a couple of Tom Smith brand Christmas Crackers. As you can see they are a cut above the usual Supermarket brand crackers and it reflect in their price. Saying that though, the gifts inside are of much better quality than in the run of the mill Christmas cracker...and it is only once a year!