Having moved to Wales in November, it was soon time for my first proper Christmas party and as this would provide my first glimpse into some British Christmas traditions I was really looking forward to it. And it certainly was a night of firsts:
my first Christmas cracker
my first Christmas turkey with all the trimmings
my first Christmas pudding
Whereas I could really get used to the food, I am still not too sure about those Christmas crackers.
The evolution of the Christmas cracker started out with a London confectioner called Tom Smith who on a trip to Paris in 1840 discovered the ‘bon bon’, a sugared almond wrapped in tissue paper. He decided to sell sweets like that in London and during Christmas that year he was very successful but afterwards sales declined. He started including a small love motto or riddle and soon had regular customers and sufficiently high orders but it was still a Christmas seller.
One night, while sitting in front of his log fire, he got inspired. Wouldn’t it be fun if the wrapping would open with a crack when pulled apart? The size of the paper wrapper had to be increased and (sadly) the sweet itself was eventually dropped, to be replaced by a trinket; fans, jewellery and other substantial items, but the idea took off. It was initially marketed as the ‘Cosaque’ or ‘Cossack’ (the ‘Cossack’ soldiers had a reputation for riding on their horses and firing their guns into the air) but was soon commonly referred to as ‘cracker’.
His son Walter introduced the hats and the company built up a range of themed crackers as well, for example crackers for bachelors and spinsters where the gifts were things like wedding rings and false teeth. Crackers were also made for special occasions like coronations. To this day, the Royal Family has special crackers made for them.
Nowadays, the Christmas crackers usually consist of a cheapish toy, a paper hat and a (rather unfunny) joke that earns you a chorus of groans instead of laughs. Let me give you some classics: “What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? – Frostbite!” or “What goes Ho Ho Whoosh, Ho Ho Whoosh? – Santa going through a revolving door!”. Did you just groan? Seriously, who comes up with these?
But I soon realised that after a couple of drinks and in good company you don’t mind cheesy jokes and wearing silly paper hats anymore.
And on this note I wish you all a merry Christmas and all the best for the new year. Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you visit again.
Nadolig Llawen! Frohe Weihnachten!