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English Christmas Crackers - What are they?
Author: John & Sarah Ranes December/25/05

In that both Sarah and John have English roots, it seemed only natural that we offer these funny tubes of paper so that those who honor English traditions can pull a Christmas Cracker during dinner on the 25th of December!

But what are these crackers? A Christmas Cracker is a brightly colored paper tube, twisted at both ends. There is a "banger" inside, when pulled by two people will create a loud snapping "Crack" or "Bang"

Holiday table place setting with English Christmas Cracker
When are they used? Crackers are very popular in England and accompany many meals over the Christmas period, but especially on Christmas Day. The large formal mid-day meal of Roast Turkey, Roast Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Parsnips and The Christmas Pudding

would not be complete without each place setting at the table decorated with a Christmas Cracker!

How did this all begin? Christmas crackers were invented by Thomas Smith, a London pastry cook in 1846. It was during a visit to Paris, where he came across the bob-bon, a sugar almond wrapped in tissue paper (with a twist on either side of the centrally placed sweet).

Smith included a romantic message inside his early crackers which he marketed in Britainas "Kiss Mottos". However the product enjoyed only limited success until Smith devised a way to make the cracker "pop" when pulled apart.

What is the device that makes the cracker "pop"? The popping sound that crackers make when they are pulled is produced by a device called a "Cracker Snap" consisting of two narrow pieces of thin cardboard that are treated with a small amount of silver fulminate. Two treated surfaces rub together as the cracker is pulled setting of a small explosion similar to the size of a toy cap gun. These are not dangerous in any way as long as they are used within the cracker as intended.

Pop goes the Cracker when pulled apart!
What emerges from within each Cracker is a paper crown made from tissue paper, a riddle or joke and a small gift.

Silly paper hats and jokes within are a major part of this Anglo Christmas Dinner tradition.
What is the best way to open a cracker?

Crackers are usually shared between two individuals, one pulling on each end. The traditional way to pull a cracker is crossing your arms and pulling a whole circle of crackers around the table. Everyone holds their cracker in their right hand and pulls their neighbors cracker with the free left hand.

Today, virtually every household in the UK has at least one box of party crackers to pull at meal times, parties, and family gatherings over the holiday season.

For further Information...

Christmas cracker - WIKIPEDIA

Tom Smith and the history of the Christmas Cracker

Christmas Dinner in England - Woodlands Junior School

Robin Reed Christmas Crackers available in the U.S.

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