Advent calendar 8: the cracker

For 150 years, Christmas crackers have been a traditional part of Christmas festivities; Tom Smith created the wonderful invention of the Christmas cracker in 1847.’
– the Tom Smith website

Today’s image: the cracker

Christmas crackers are an unavoidable part of the seasonal celebrations in the United Kingdom, and, as far as I am aware, the tradition has spread to Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. Their main job is to provide a decoration for the dinner table, and a brief distraction from arguing with your family.

I don’t think they’re that well known elsewhere – perhaps with good reason. For all the colourful, shiny-papered promise of the exterior, the inside typically contains a paper crown-style hat, a small, cheap toy or novelty (easily swallowed by anyone under three), and a piece of paper containing, variously, a motto, riddle or, most commonly, a joke. A really bad joke. In fact, ‘Christmas cracker jokes’ are a joke in themselves.

They are called crackers because of the ‘crack’ sound they make when opened – thanks to the tiny amount of silver fulminate they contain exploding under pressure of the two ends of the cracker being pulled apart.

So, here’s an onomatopoeia joke:
Q: What did one Christmas cracker say to the cracker next to him?
A: My POP is bigger than yours!

Yup! That’s about the level of most cracker jokes. I did warn you. I’ll put a few more examples down below. Sorry!

The history of the cracker is well documented. In brief, they were created in something like their current form by the company Tom Smith in 1847, as noted above. The inspiration was, evidently, the French bonbon or sugared almond, wrapped in tissue paper along with a love motto and twisted at either end. The Tom Smith brand still exists, though now taken over by some huge conglomerate. So there we have it – the French exchange love mottos; here we read aloud lame jokes about snowmen.

Bought eco crackers instead

This year, I timidly suggested to the family that we dispense with having crackers all together. The kids are too old to be interested in the novelties inside, and I spy everyone round the table judging how short a time they can get away with before self-consciously whipping the hats back off their heads (to be fair, the flimsy paper headgear does tend to slip down over your eyes when you’re trying to eat).

But no! Suddenly, in the face of banishment, everyone insists the crackers simply must continue to furnish the festive dinner table. It’s – well, no particular reason, except it’s tradition. As a compromise, I have bought some plastic-free, recyclable ones. I have to admit, it’s a custom I am reluctant to do away with all together, too; we’ve had them ever since I can remember.

There are many attempts to ‘improve’ the basic cracker. Luxury crackers contain expensive gifts and hand-made truffles or cosmetics. A publication called The Elite Traveller (no, I am obviously not their usual readership) describes “The world’s most luxurious Christmas crackers” as online business’s VeryFirstTo’s crackers, which contain “an Aston Martin Vanquish Coupe, a Cartier Diamond necklace and even a Sunseeker yacht valued at over $3 million.” Or at least, I assume they contain certificates for these items – unless the wrappers are truly enormous. Another range of crackers by the same company is described as containing “six magnificent white diamonds selected by award winning jeweller Tresor Paris.”

Well. Yes, that does make the more usual fortune-telling fish or mini pack of playing cards look a little… modest, shall we say. Personally though, I’d rather be pulling the paper-hat-and-plastic-moustache type of cracker than be part of that world.

Finally, then, the jokes below were named as some of the best by the Mirror newspaper in 2019. Many of them are, as is customary, based on puns and idioms, so apologies if English isn’t your first language. And I know what you’re thinking: heaven knows what the bad jokes are like…

Why was the snowman looking through the carrots?
He was picking his nose

What does Father Christmas do when his elves misbehave?
He gives them the sack

What do you call a blind reindeer?
No-eye deer

Why did no-one bid for Rudolph and Blitzen on eBay?
Because they were two deer

What do you call a line of men waiting for a haircut?
A barber-queue

What happened to the man who stole an advent calendar?
He got 25 days

Come to think of it, I quite like that last one…


The Tom Smith website  
Zahra Al-Kateb, ‘The Most Luxurious Christmas Crackers, in The Elite Traveller
‘Top 40 Christmas cracker jokes for 2019’ in The Mirror

Main mage by Genie PRESSENDO on Pixabay.
Cartoon lavnatalia on Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Advent calendar 8: the cracker

  1. The jokes are appalling, the paper crown never fits and the toys are a disappointment………… BUT my sis-in-law still insists we all wear one! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The same in our house 🙂 ! Somehow, though, if the hat didn’t keep flapping off and the joke was original and hilarious, it just wouldn’t be the same.

      Liked by 1 person

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