I love pretty wrapping paper and ribbons and bows at Christmas. My family laughs at me because I can not bear to tear the paper on a pretty package. I carefully undo the tape and try to preserve it. Do not even think of throwing away perfectly good ribbon or bows. So it was in the cards that I would also like English Christmas Crackers. They are beautiful! Pretty vintage Christmas papers, shiny ribbon, who could resist? My only regret; that I have to tear the paper!
What are English Christmas Crackers you ask? Well they are not the kind of crackers that you eat. These beautifully wrapped confections are filled with tiny toys and lucious pieces of chocolate and candy. If your English they even have a paper crown in them and a really bad joke. These fun and fancy treats have been a part of British celebrations since the 1840's.
London confectioner Tom Smith started adding a motto to his sugared almond bon-bons in 1847, which he sold wrapped in a twisted paper package. As many of his bon-bons were bought by men to give to women, many of the mottos were simple love poems. Sales were slow. He was inspired to add the “bang” when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on the fire. He decided to make a log shaped package that would produce a surprise bang and inside would be an almond and a motto. With the addition of the bang sales soared! Soon the sugared almond was replaced with a small gift. The gift was usually a fan, a piece of jewelry or other small trinket. Originally sold as the Cosaque it soon became known by the public as the ‘cracker’.
The paper hat was added to the cracker in the early 1900s by his sons to help separate them from other confectioners who were also making crackers. By the end of the 1930s, the love poems had been replaced by jokes or limericks. The cracker was soon adopted as a traditional festive custom and today virtually every English
household has at least one box of crackers to pull over Christmas.The idea of wearing a paper crown may have originated from the Twelfth Night celebrations, where a King or Queen was appointed to look over the proceedings. It is even said that the Queen wears a paper hat over her Christmas lunch!
Although Christmas Crackers are used primarily during the holiday season, in recent years they have become increasingly popular as party favors used to celebrate birthdays and other festive occasions. They have slowly begun to to catch on in America, but finding them is not always easy. If you decide to add this fun and beautiful treat to your Christmas tradition this is how to use them. The Cracker is typically used to decorate the place setting of each of your holiday guests. Place the cracker on the place setting prior to serving food or refreshment. Two individuals will then grasp one end each of the cracker and pull using a twisting motion. This will tear the "cracker snap" inside the tube apart producing a small *BANG*. Keep a firm grip lest it slip out of your hand with no bang. The paper will tear away and the contents of the Cracker will be revealed! You can also do this with everyone around the table simultaneously grasping the person on either side of them cracker and pulling! The longest Christmas cracker pulling chain consisted of 1081 people and was achieved by The Harrodian School in Barnes, London, UK, on 10 December 2015.
It's a fun little game at Christmas and is sure to bring a smile to old and young alike!