Christmas crackers are a part of Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a bright colored or decorated paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, much in the manner of a wishbone, causing the cracker to split unevenly. The split is accompanied by a small bang or snapping sound similar to that of a toy cap gun.
How they came into being is an interesting story. In early 1830, as a young boy, Tom Smith started work in a bakery and confectioners shop in London. He sold sweets such as fondants, pralines and gum pastilles. He worked hard and took particular interest in the wedding cake ornaments and decorations. He experimented and created new, more exciting designs in his spare time and before long he was successful enough to start his own business in East London.
Tom was adventurous and forward thinking, often traveling abroad to search for new ideas. On a trip to Paris in 1840 he discovered the Bon-bon, a sugared almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. It was a simple idea which, over the next 7 years, would eventually evolve into the Cracker.
He decided to bring the Bon-bon to London and during the Christmas season that year, they sold very well. In January however, the demand virtually ceased and once again he was reliant on sales of cakes, table decorations and ornaments. Anxious to develop the Bon-bon idea further and to stimulate sales, he decided to place a small love motto in the tissue paper. He encouraged his regular customers to take supplies, of which many did, and within a short while, orders were high and sales were profitable enough for him to increase his staff.
By now, Tom knew he had a unique and potentially very commercial idea. He decided to take a risk and concentrate on developing it further, while still running the wedding cake ornament and confectionery business which was by now, very well established. At this time, the majority of Bon-bons were still sold at Christmas and Tom began to think up ways to capitalize on this short but very profitable season. He needed to make his Bon-bons even more appealing. It was the crackle of a log as he threw it on his fire that gave him the flash of inspiration which eventually led to the crackers we know today.
From a trip to Paris and a crackling fire, Tom Smith made the first crackers and people today still enjoy the "pop" of the cracker and all the goodies inside.
Here is a link to Cracker clip art:
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