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How to make Christmas Crackers for your Holiday table is a fun activity for all to do!
Christmas Crackers? Do you eat them with a cheeseball or put on a tray? Nope. They’re not edible (well maybe there’s a treat inside you can eat). These Christmas Crackers will look cute on your table and be fun while you eat!
Christmas crackers are a traditional Christmas favorite in England. They were first made in about 1845-1850 by a London sweet maker called Tom Smith. He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper). He came back to London and tried selling sweets like that in England and also included a small motto or riddle in with the sweet. But they didn’t sell very well.
Legend says that, one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half.
When Tom died, his expanding cracker business was taken over by his three sons, Tom, Walter and Henry. Walter introduced the hats into crackers and he also traveled around the world looking for new ideas for gifts to put in the crackers. They made specialty crackers for bachelors and spinsters that contained false teeth and diamond rings. I guess back then false teeth were once size fits all!
What are they?
The Christmas Crackers that are used today are short cardboard tubes wrapped in colorful paper. There is normally a Cracker next to each plate on the Christmas dinner table. When the crackers are pulled – with a bang! – a colorful party hat, a toy or gift and a festive joke falls out! The party hats look like crowns and it is thought that they symbolize the crowns that might have been worn by the Wise Men.
Being raised in Canada we always had them at Christmas dinner from a box that my mom bought. When my kids were young a friend of mine told me she made hers each year. You could make them? I was hooked!
Fun in the Making….Usually
Once I started making my own, I would look around at Party Stores, craft sales and Dollar stores for items that would be a good fit. The bags of Birthday Party treats that you find at stores (plastic rings, parachute men or even small yoyo’s) make really good fillers. As you get into making them, you realize it’s hard to fit all those fun things in a little cardboard tube.
However, a few years ago I sent up Graham’s box of gifts for him and his wife as they were heading to her home town for Christmas. She had flown on ahead and my son was flying in a few days later. Well, the Christmas Crackers that year were bigger than usual and had some practical items in them that were much different than a plastic nose and ugly teeth. He grabbled them as he ran out the door for the airport and stuffed them in his carry on. When he went through security he was pulled aside and couldn’t figure out why. It turns out in his cracker I had put a 4 inch jack knife, something he could carry in his car for emergencies. Needless to say he was NOT amused at security and threw it away and dashed off to his gate to catch his flight.
There are some standard things that go into making the crackers. Always have a tissue paper hat, a joke and usually as it’s a family gathering, keep them clean, and some little trinkets. Here’s some ideas that I use:
- perfume or cologne samples
- nail polish
- whoopie cushion (they can roll up tight and are such fun at a gathering)
- plastic rings
- parachute men (they keep kids occupied long after the meal is finished)
- lip balm lipstick (the kids really like the flavored lip smackers)
- gum or candy
- Earrings or necklaces (I made some kids necklaces out of some of my old stuff)
- Socks (see the tube gets bigger)
- small gadgets like flashlights or glass fixing kits
- Fake nose and glasses
It might be a good idea to set a budget as some things add up really quickly. I was at the Dollar Store this year and found a whole bag (6-8 pieces each) of really fun things (plastic glasses and noses, lip noisemakers ) for very inexpensive.
How to Make Crackers:
- Toilet paper rolls (once the paper is off:))
- Tissue Paper
- Wrapping or Scrapbook paper
- Jokes or Riddles – FREE Printable
- small elastics (for little girls hair)
- Snappers found at Amazon or Michaels in Canada
- Stuff for the inside
- Tag to label the cracker
- For larger tubes, just make your own with card stock and a stapler
- With small piece of tape stick the snapper in the toilet paper tube with the ends equal on each side
- With a piece of tissue paper cut zig zag to make a crown top. Tape the ends together ( I usually try it on my head first and adjust the size for each person) Fold the hat up and secure it with a small elastic (see photos)
- Stuff the paper hat, riddle, and other things inside each cracker ( I usually do one at a time but label each paper tube with names)
- When everything is stuffed inside, lay across a piece of tissue paper. With a small piece of tape affix the tissue to the tube and roll up. Tape closed.
- Tied each end closed with ribbon, making sure the snapper ends poke through the openings.
- With a piece of Christmas wrap or scrapbook paper, cut to fit the tube and roll the piece around the tube on top of the tissue (see photos..I know this sounds confusing)
- Tape in place and label with tag
It really is a fun activity to do with others. But, if you want the fun of a Christmas Cracker but don’t want to go through the steps you can find them at Amazon and sometimes in the U.S. you can find them at TJ Maxx and Ross. In Canada, they are available at most stores.