Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Don't forget to buy Christmas crackers this season!

Yes, Christmas crackers. I am sure you've seen them in lots of shops / supermarket shelves / restaurants by now, because in Ireland these things are a TRADITION (with capital letters) during the Christmas season.

So, don't you know what they are? a cracker is a cardboard tube, wrapped in very bright paper which is twisted at both ends, making it look very similar to a huge sweet. When preparing the table for a Christmas dinner, you should put one cracker next to each plate. After dinner, two people pull the cracker (one side each), so it breaks and makes a "pop"noise.

Exactly as if it were a Thanksgiving wishbone (where the person who gets the bigger part of the bone sees his/her secret wish come true), here, the person who gets the bigger part of the cracker after it breaks, gets to keep its contents.

And...what's inside? what is the prize you get if you end up with the bigger part of the cracker once it's broken? well, that depends very much on the manufacturer, but in all of them there will be:

  • A paper hat, similar to a crown
  • A joke on a pice of paper (like in the Chinese fortune biscuits). I've been told that ALL the jokes are really bad
  • A small gift ( this is the one that varies depending on the manufacturer and the cost of the cracker).

Just to give you a little idea of the history of this important Christmas tradition, not only in Ireland, but also in all the Commonwealth countries, they were invented in the 1840's by a London baker called Thomas Smith. He had this bright idea after visiting Paris and "discovering" the bon-bons: simple sweets wrapped in paper twisted at both sides.

He brought the idea back to London but included a motto in a piece of paper inside each one of them (usually it was a love poem). Through the following years - and as the product seemed to be a sales success during the Christmas season - he introduced several innovations: the bigger size, the "bang" noise, the little gift instead of the sweet....

After he died, his sons took over the prosperous business of their father and kept introducing improvements (one paper crown inside each cracker, a joke instead of a love poem, etc), trying this time to make a difference, as lots of competitors were by then selling similar products. From then on till now, this has become an impossible-to-miss tradition during Christmas meals at home or in restaurants.

So now you know: don't forget to buy them if you're spending Christmas in can also buy them if you're going back home! I'm sure it'll be a great innovation, and who knows? maybe you'll start this tradition in "the rest of the world"....

As I said before, there are lots of places where you can buy Christmas cracker, but I found a web where you can buy the most amazingly decorated ones I've ever seen. Just for you to check (and buy if you want), here it is

Hope you enjoy them!

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