Traditions of Christmas: Christmas Crackers

posted in: Christmas, Holidays | 0

Christmas crackers are part of the Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the commonwealth countries.

“Crackers were originally called ‘cosaques’ and were thought to be named after the ‘Cossack’ soldiers who had a reputation for riding on their horses and firing guns into the air!”

The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of cracker bonbons and the pulling of crackers from the early 1840s.

Tradition states that Tom Smith of London invented crackers in 1847. He created the crackers as a promotional idea to promote his bon-bon sweets. He is said to have added the crackle element to emulate the crackle of a log on a fire.

When Smith died, his three sons took over the business and introduced hats in the crackers. They also traveled the world looking for ideas to put in the crackers. The company eventually began making themed crackers.

The crackers is described as “pulled apart by two people, each holding an outer chamber, causing the cracker to split unevenly and leaving one person holding the central chamber and prize. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun). One chemical used for the friction strip is silver fulminate.”

The contents of a cracker are usually a coloured paper hat, small toy or trinket or piece of trivia or a riddle.

Today, assembled crackers are usually sold in sets of three or twelve. Usually a cracker is placed beside each plate at the Christmas dinner table.

“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.”

The Tom Smith Company continues making crackers each year for the Royal Family, although the contents are a closely guarded secret.

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