What is a Christmas Cracker?

Christmas Crackers have been a traditional part of Christmas in the United Kingdom since the 1840’s. From the U.K. the tradition spread to the Commonwealth countries (Australia, Canada, South Africa…) and now it is becoming popular around the world.

A Christmas Cracker is a decorative paper tube twisted on either end; like a sweet wrapper. In the center of the cracker, enclosed by the twists, is generally a small gift or toy, a paper hat and a joke. A cracker is pulled, to open, by two people; one on either end. At Christmas  this is often this is done in a circle and in unison with each person crossing their arms to hold the cracker of their neighbour. When a Cracker opens a chemically impregnated strip breaks and causes a snapping sound: hence the name.

Some people maintain that after a Cracker has been pulled the person with the biggest half wins its contents. Others make sure that everyone gets to share.

The paper hat, often a crown, is traditionally worn through the Christmas meal. This is believed to be a tradition from the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia which at the winter solstice (December 21st) each year celebrated the start of a new year and the re-birth of the unconquerable sun. It was normal at this festival for masters to serve their servants and decorative crowns were part of the carnival atmosphere.

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