I think I’m go­ing crack­ers

Brightly coloured tis­sue-pa­per hats, minia­ture screw­drivers and toe-curlingly aw­ful jokes plus the hard-earned ‘snap’–there’s noth­ing quite like pulling a Christmas cracker, says Katy Bir­chall

Country Life Every Week - - Simon’s Kitchen -

On Jan­uary 7, 1915, an English sol­dier on the front line wrote home to his fam­ily in Mary­port, Cum­bria: ‘One of the fel­lows shar­ing my “buggy hut” had a par­cel on the same day and we com­bined and in­vited four more pals, one of whom had a box of Tom Smith’s Christmas crack­ers sent out, which we cracked, and it added to the fun im­mensely. Christmas in the trenches! What a time! “Peace on earth, good­will to­ward men”.’ Thanks to the fa­mil­iar snap of the hum­ble Christmas cracker, six sol­diers gained a sim­ple mo­ment of joy in a time of ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion.

A cen­tury later, that mar­vel­lous ‘crack’ re­mains an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of our tra­di­tional fes­tiv­i­ties, one that’s been en­joyed in Bri­tish house­holds since the early 1840s. Leg­end has it that con­fec­tioner Tom Smith was in­spired to add a snap of sil­ver ful­mi­nate to his su­gared-al­mond parcels af­ter a log crack­led loudly as he threw it onto the fire. Th­ese ‘bangs of ex­pec­ta­tion’, as Mr Smith named them, were a hit and, by 1900, the com­pany was sell­ing 13 mil­lion crack­ers a year. It re­ceived its first Royal War­rant in 1906 and re­mains the of­fi­cial sup­plier of crack­ers to the Royal House­hold to this day.

Bad jokes aside, this is a se­ri­ous busi­ness, with prepa­ra­tions at Tom Smith, now based in South Wales, start­ing more than 12 months in ad­vance of the fes­tive sea­son, cre­at­ing a never-end­ing Christmas count­down. ‘We treat each cracker as a beau­ti­fully de­signed table­ware item,’ ex­plains the com­pany’s Katie Brickle. ‘They can de­liver hu­mour, evoke nos­tal­gia and lend an el­e­ment of lux­ury to each place set­ting.’

The late 1800s, when crack­ers were hand­crafted and beau­ti­fully printed, were a real hey­day for th­ese fes­tive sta­ples— even a young Al­fred J. Mun­nings pro­duced de­signs fea­tur­ing gob­lins, pix­ies, snow

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