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Origins of the Christmas Cracker

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cracker1A London sweet maker is credited as the creator of the traditional British Christmas cracker. The cracker, a cardboard tube wrapped in shinny or festive paper, is filled with a little toy or game, a paper hat, a bad joke and has a paper banger that makes a bang when the cracker is pulled.tom cracker

The cracker is usually placed on the Christmas lunchtime table and everyone is invited to hold one end of the cracker and invite someone sitting next to them to hold the other.  When pulled the cracker will make a bang and only one person will win the contents of the cracker.

The British tradition started when Tom Smith a sweet maker from London tried to copy the idea of the French “bon bon”, but the idea was not a great success.  One evening Tom was sitting by his recently-lit fire and became interested in the cracks and sparks that came from the fire.  He wondered what it would be like if his new sweets made a bang when opened and so he started to experiment.

The cracker was born and Tom´s new sweets were now filled with a small banger and idea was a great success.  Tom´s sons took the idea further after their father died and introduced paper hats, really bad jokes and fun toys into the cracker.  The specialist crackers for men, women, war heroes and others became a firm favourite in the UK and now almost all families will include a box of crackers on their Christmas shopping list.

The world's longest Christmas cracker measured 63.1 m (207 ft) long and 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and was made by the parents of children at Ley Hill School and Pre-School, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, UK on 20 December 2001. The cracker contained balloons, toys, a hat (2.5 m (8ft) in diameter) and a joke and the school is just up the road from Radio Christmas.

Duncan Dyason

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