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Christmas Crackers – A British Tradition

Union Jack flag, red hanging baubles and a hanging wreath of holly

There are so many traditions at Christmas that you almost expect them all to be prevalent around the world. Christmas trees, gift giving and receiving, turkey and flashing lights are well known Christmas traditions that you see everywhere at this time of year, but you did you know the Christmas cracker is a British tradition that is sparsely unheard of or sold in America?

I only found this out myself a few weeks ago when my mum, who loves history, shared this information with me. I was a little shocked as the Christmas cracker seems so traditional and one of those things that you can’t not have on your dinner table at Christmas that I just assumed everyone did them!
Just think about how we would pitch a Christmas Cracker to the states, though. At the end of the day, it’s a cardboard tube covered in some coloured foil with a cheap plastic toy, wafer thin paper hat and rubbish joke contained inside – now it doesn’t exactly scream ‘luxury’ or even ‘festive’, does it? Yet, we’e been using them in the UK since the 1850s.
So why does the UK love them so much?
I suspect it’s because they originate in the UK. Sweet shop owner, Tom Smith, first invented the cracker by adding a motto to the bon-bons he sold in twisted packaging. He then went on to create a log shaped gift which ‘banged’ and contained a motto and a sugared almond. Over time, the almond was replaced by small gifts and from there the Christmas Cracker was born. Paper hats and jokes were added during the 1900s and they’ve remained largely unchanged since then.
So they really are an age old tradition in the UK and I think that’s why we love them. I’m pleased to see that we’ve kept something created so many years ago here in the UK as a Christmas tradition and that we haven’t tampered with a formula that works either! They’re simple and they’re fun and I hope they stay around for many years to come.


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