Christmas crackers have been a staple at the table for as long as most of us can remember. Whenever the festive season comes around, supermarkets and department stores are filled with boxes of Christmas crackers that are just waiting to be popped open with a friend or family member. Whether it’s a typical Christmas cracker with a party hat and plastic toy or a more expensive variety with sweets and fancy chocolates, there is a huge selection available.
But how exactly did this tradition of Christmas crackers even start? In this post, we’ll be diving into the history of the Christmas cracker and explore how it came to be.
It all Started with a Sweet Maker in London
A sweet maker in London by the name of Tom Smith originally saw French bon bon sweets during a trip to Paris in 1840. By 1845, Tom had tried to create his own versions of the sweet while also including a small motto or riddle with it. The goal was to add a bit of fun to the sweets to make them more alluring to customers.
Unfortunately, these sweets didn’t sell too well.
Legend has it that Tom was sitting in front of his log fire one night, saddened by the failure of his new sweets. As he watched the logs in front of him, he took an interest in the way it cracked and popped with sparks. It was at that moment that inspiration hit him. What if his sweets and toys could also be opened with a satisfying pop or crack?
The Birth of the Christmas Cracker
Fast forward to 1861 and Tom had launched a new range known as “Bangs of Expectation”. It’s said that he bought the recipe to produce small cracks and bangs in his crackers from a fireworks company known as Brock’s Fireworks. This formed the basis for the very first range of Christmas crackers. They were also known as “cosaques”, thought to be named after Cossack soldiers that were known for riding horses and firing guns into the air.
When Tom passed away, his cracker business was taken over by his three sons Tom, Walter and Henry. Walter was the one that added hats into the trackers and also travelled across the world for gift ideas to put into the crackers. The company also developed a large range of themed crackers. Some were aimed at single men and women, others were for war heroes and some were themed after the British Royal Family.
Into the 20th Century
Tom Smith specialized in producing bespoke and high-end crackers. The company also developed a large range of themed crackers, according to the current affairs of the time. Some were aimed at single men and women, others were for Suffragettes, and some were themed after the British Royal Family
The Tom Smith Company also fulfilled special orders for both companies and individuals. In 1927, a Gentleman wrote enclosing a diamond engagement and 10 shilling note, asking for the ring to be put in a special cracker for his fiancée. Unfortunately, no address was supplied, and he never contacted the Company again. The ring, letter and 10-shilling note are still in the companies possession to this day!
The Tom Smith factory caught fire three times during the 20th Century, in 1963, one in the 1930’s and another in the 1941 Blitz of London. The company managed to survive and produced crackers until the 1980’s, where they were employing 500 people and produced 50,000,000 crackers per year. The company was then bought out in 1998 by Napier Industries.
Christmas Crackers Today
Today, Christmas crackers are at the dinner table every year. They still produce a satisfying bang when they’re pulled and are usually filled with a hat, a little toy or gift and a festive joke. They’re infamous for their bad jokes and you can still buy some unique themed crackers to add a little fun.
Branded Christmas Crackers
Whether you’re planning to get together this Christmas, hosting virtual drinks or a Zoom gathering, you can provide your employees with bright, eye-catching, promotional crackers. Share jokes, swap gifts and don your party hat to finish off your festive outfit perfectly.