OUT WITH A BANG
Emily Goddard reviews the top luxury Christmas crackers
No Christmas table is complete without crackers. They’re arguably as important as the turkey, roast potatoes and brussels sprouts, and have been part of our festive traditions for well over a century. From the snap to the gift, paper crown and, of course, the jokes, everyone from grandpa to our youngest relations gets a kick out of crackers at Christmas.
A brief history: crackers were invented by Tom Smith in the mid-1800s when the London-based confectioner was inspired by the sugared almond bonbons wrapped in a twist of tissue paper he had seen while on a trip to Paris. He later swapped out the sweets, filling the crackers with trinkets and snaps. And after his death, his sons took over the business and added paper hats.
Today’s crackers come in all sorts of designs and with various gifts, but they exist for the same purpose as the original: to bring an element of fun to the table. There are now crackers for pets, children and versions especially for adults – think boozy treats inside.
Of the most coveted, though, are the luxury Christmas crackers. Those festive dinner table mainstays that add a look of opulence and hold within gifts that won’t be discarded with the paper wrapping. Speaking of the wrapping, many are now recyclable, and some are even reusable over many Christmases.
And don’t worry about the cost of living crisis affecting your chances of luxury crackers sitting atop your table – some affordable options are just as special as even the most expensive brands.
How we tested
We searched for this year’s finest crackers from the brands you’d expect and some newer players in the field. We’ve included classic trinket crackers, those that can be given as gifts, food and drink delights and reusable crackers that we can see being used for generations.
Each cracker has been opened with a fellow tester, the contents assessed for quality and usability, the jokes tested for belly laughs and how friendly the components are to the planet. Perhaps most importantly, we considered the design of each and how much festive luxury they can bring to our tables. These are the ones that will give you bang for your buck.
Harvey Nichols go crackers, box of six: £65, Harvey Nichols
The best luxury crackers have to be the ones that will bring the whole family joy this Christmas, and we think we’ve found them in these handmade Harvey Nichols crackers. There really is something for everyone, from the adult gin and champagne stopper to the classic slinky spring that will keep little ones entertained. There is, of course, a joke and a gold or silver crown in each. The design is pretty minimalist with monochrome and silver Harvey Nichols branding, but that does mean they will sit pretty on the table however you decide to dress it. The packaging was predominantly recyclable cardboard, except for the bows, but we’ll be reusing these to decorate next year’s gifts.
L’Occitane festive crackers collection, box of four: £22.50, L’Occitane
Among the most important factors to consider when buying crackers is the usability of the gifts inside to ensure glee from those pulling them, and so that we don’t add a load of plastic to landfill. These crackers tick both boxes. Inside the cute cardboard crackers are two beautifully fragrant L’Occitane products, including shower gels and oils and hand creams. These don’t snap like traditional crackers, but they will be a hit with whoever receives them. This set is also excellent value for money because the products inside are worth £25. Buy now
Kaneo Celebrations reusable luxury crackers, box of six: £62, Kaneo
Recycling your Christmas crackers is great but reusing them year after year is even better, and these are the crème de la crème of reusable crackers and your new festive family heirloom. Made in a fine velvet fabric for that luxe look, these crackers are available in six fabulously named designs, including furrytail of New York and lord of the wings. We tested out the tartan Glen Coe-co variety, which was ludicrously festive with green, red and gold hues.
The crackers come with enough snaps and gold paper crowns for three parties and are ready to fill with gifts of your choice. There’s also a black chalkboard tag so that you can personalise each for your guests with chalk or use the gold sticky letters that come in the box. On the reverse of the tag is a QR code that takes you to a joke and a challenge that will have everyone around the table in fits. We love that these come in a robust presentation box that can be used for storage until next year to keep these beauties in perfect condition. Plus, 10 per cent of Kaneo’s sales go to the Salvation Army.
Nancy & Betty Studio mistletoe luxury Christmas crackers, pack of six: £36, Nancy & Betty
These handmade crackers give us luxury vibes without the unaffordable price tag. The thick recyclable paper crackers feature a pretty mistletoe illustration design, which is printed using vegetable-based inks, and green silky bows. Inside is a selection of plastic-free gifts for everyone in the family, including a wooden yoyo, a faux leather keyring and a mini jam, that we think will get plenty of use. And, of course, there are the hats and jokes for chuckles around the dinner table. As well as using sustainable paper to make these crackers, Nancy & Betty Studio plants one tree for every box sold to make these a genuinely sustainable buy.
OTO the calm traveller cracker: £36.75, OTO
Does Christmas, for you, mean switching off from life’s worries and to-do lists? Or perhaps it’s hectic as you cram in lots of travelling to visit loved ones. Either way, this cracker is for you, or the perfect gift for that crazy-busy relative. The calm traveller from the high-end CBD brand is a wonderful treat that offers a chance to find a sanctuary of calm to reset. Inside the dreamy cardboard cracker is a trio of OTO’s finest naturally derived, UK-made products: a CBD lip balm, a hand balm and a roll-on. As you’d expect from the brand, the packaging is gorgeous and features recyclable glass. The cracker itself is also 100 per cent recyclable.
Nancy & Betty Studio king red winter berries Christmas crackers, box of six: £155, Nancy & Betty
You’ll feel like royalty with these regal crackers on your Christmas table. They’re larger than most, recyclable and add plenty of festive joy to the setting with a berry design rich in red, green and gold. That’s then finished with green and red velvet bows that you’ll want to reuse to elevate your gift wrapping. Inside each cracker is a premium, plastic-free gift. Whether it’s the silver butter knife, Liberty fabric eye mask or the Plum & Ashby hand cream, you can guarantee they’ll be squabbles over who gets what. Buy now
Jo Malone London Christmas cracker: £36, Jo Malone
Treat someone special this Christmas with this festive cracker full of the finest scented goodies. Nestled inside the classic branded cardboard cracker – which is recyclable – you’ll find not one Jo Malone product but three: a 9ml peony and blush suede cologne, and 15ml each of the wood sage and sea salt body and hand wash and the blackberry and bay body crème. We don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love to see this cracker at their place on the table this Christmas.
Fever-Tree Christmas crackers: £8.50, John Lewis
Bring festive cheer to your table this Christmas with these boozy crackers. They may have no snap, but they’ll be sure to set your party off with a bang. Each cardboard cracker contains a mini bottle of spirit and a perfectly paired Fever-Tree mixer – enough to get merry but not too merry.
We tried out the ultimate golden rum, duppy share aged rum, to be specific, and ginger ale (£8.50, John Lewis), and the ultimate Mediterranean gin, Tarquin’s, and tonic (£8.50, John Lewis). The rum and ginger ale is a warming tipple full of festive feels, while the G&T is the ideal palate cleanser after a heavy meal. Besides these two pairings, there are many others, such as vodka, whisky and a whole array of gins, to enjoy – just not all at once.
OKA set of six luxury shagreen crackers, grey: £95, OKA
These crackers are the ultimate in understated sophistication. Made from paper and card, they are printed with a grey shagreen-effect pattern and are finished with a rich berrycoloured bow. What’s inside got us most excited, though, because these gifts are beautifully crafted from natural materials, such as bone and horn, and they’re useful.
There’s a stylish bone and bamboo bottle opener, an adorable egg cup and spoon and a gorgeous honey dipper. There’s also a shimmering paper hat and a conversation starter note with a cute dog meme on the reverse to have you and your guests chewing the fat well into the small hours. The box and most of the cracker components, bar the bows and adhesive strip, can be recycled too.
Meri Meri candy cane shape crackers, box of six: £28, Meri Meri
While some of the crackers in this round-up include gifts for children, we can imagine some adults being reluctant to share, so we’ve included these especially for little ones this Christmas. And they’re not your standard cracker either. Instead, they are shaped like candy canes and printed appropriately with a red and white stripe design brought to life with environmentally friendly glitter.
Kiddies will also love what’s inside, whether they get a cute animal eraser, paperclip, sparkling star brooch or puzzle – our young testers approved. They’ll also be keen to don their special party hats and share the rib-tickling jokes around the table. These are suitable for children aged eight and above.
We knew that our best buy would be a box of top-quality crackers with gifts for all the family without being hideously expensive. That’s why the Harvey Nichols go crackers are our top pick. A few swapsies might be needed at the table after
they’ve been pulled, but we are confident these crackers have a gift that will please everyone.
If you want this year to be the last that you buy single-use crackers, you can do no better than buying Kaneo Celebrations’ reusable luxury crackers. The quality is exceptional, the designs fun, and we can see these being passed down through generations like vintage Christmas decorations. They’re also excellent value for money.
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