ME: i still have those burning questions i want to ask of you now that we’re Friends, cuz I’ve always been too afraid to ask any U.K. internet acquaintances for fear of offending in my ignorance. i believe that with you, if i mistakenly said something inappropriate in my quest for knowledge & understanding, that you wouldn’t take it to heart and educate me accordingly (laughing at me is perfectly acceptable, as long as you tell me why it’s funny so i can laugh at me too!)
bear in mind that the only thing i know about my English Cousins is what I’ve seen on the BBC America, PBS and the Hollywood movies. Everything Good and Evil I know about Life, I learned from Doctor Who (do NOT mock The Doctor! Ever.)
question #1 is a 2-part inquiry: what are the paper hats for (representative of something Pagan that the Catholic Church ‘altered’ to bring Pagans into the fold, as they did several centuries ago?); and those paper popping things that are pulled apart at the Christmas Supper table- what does that mean? or do? or represent?
(Several Doctor Who Christmas Specials>>> REMEMBER: DOCTOR WHO IS OFF-LIMITS FOR BESMIRCHING.)
MY FRIEND: Teehee!!! Ah, I’m laughing so hard!!! You’re talking about Christmas crackers!!! Hehe!!! It seems so strange to me that you guys don’t have them!! I’m not really sure what they symbolise, or how the idea for them came about, but they’re a bit of a Christmas tradition over here! Inside is usually a really naff little toy, a piece of paper with the worst jokes you could ever imagine on, and of course, the colourful paper hat!! No, I have no idea what it all means either! Hehe!!
ME: You Are Awesome!
you can’t EAT them- why do you call them “crackers”???
if you watch the “Christmas Carol” episode of Doctor Who (the Tennant years) you’ll see in the last half, all I know of it…. well, there are several other Christmas episode, showing the identical tradition. maybe your Mumm knows? You see, all holidays are from tradition. and traditions morph over Time. I’m on a (one of the many, yes!) mission to uncover the origin of the numerous holiday icon oddities that vex me so….
now obviously, as the Prodigal Children of Mother England, we should have some semblance of similarity in most things we do…. can’t be helped- its inherent. but over here, somewhere in the last 238+ years since we ran away from Home, it just….. Disappeared. without a trace.
Now, I have just got to wonder “Why”?
what in heaven’s name happened that caused a Void in Tradition such as something seemingly so insignificant? Yes. I have Nothing BUT Free Time in my head, thank you for asking
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Christmas crackers are part of Christmas celebrations primarily in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealandand South Africa. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an oversized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, often with arms crossed, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically-impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun). One chemical used for the friction strip is silver fulminate, which is highly unstable.
Assembled crackers are typically sold in boxes of three to twelve. These typically have different designs usually with red, green and gold colours. Making crackers from scratch using tissue paper and the tubes from toilet rolls is a common activity for children.
Crackers are typically pulled at the Christmas dinner table or at parties. In one version of the cracker tradition, the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. In another each person will have their own cracker and will keep its contents regardless of whose end they were in. Typically these contents are a coloured paper hat; a small toy, small plastic model or other trinket and a motto, a joke, a riddle or piece of trivia on a small strip of paper. The paper hats, with the appearance of crowns, are usually worn when eating Christmas dinner. The tradition of wearing festive hats is believed to date back to Roman times, and the Saturnalia celebrations, which also involved decorative headgear.
The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of cracker bonbons and the pulling of crackers from the early 1840s. Tradition tells of how Tom Smith of London invented crackers in 1847. He created the crackers as a development of his bon-bon sweets, which he sold in a twist of paper (the origins of the traditional sweet-wrapper). As sales of bon-bons slumped, Smith began to come up with new promotional ideas. His first tactic was to insert “love messages” into the wrappers of the sweets (cf. fortune cookies).
Smith added the “crackle” element when he heard the crackle of a log he had just put on a fire.  The size of the paper wrapper had to be increased to incorporate the banger mechanism, and the sweet itself was eventually dropped, to be replaced by a trinket; fans, jewellery and other substantial items. The new product was initially marketed as the Cosaque (i.e., Cossack), but the onomatopoeic “cracker” soon became the commonly used name, as rival varieties came on the market. The other elements of the modern cracker —the gifts, paper hats and varied designs— were all introduced by Tom Smith’s son, Walter Smith, to differentiate his product from the rival cracker manufacturers which had suddenly sprung up. As the demand for crackers increased, Tom Smith merged with Caley Crackers in 1953 taking over their headquarters and factory in Norwich, East Anglia.
- McAlpine, Fraser (December 7, 2011). “Part 3: Crackers”. A Very British Christmas. BBC America. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
- “Christmas Crackers USA”. Retrieved January 2012.
- Rarely, they can be much more substantial. In 2009, Harrod’s offered a version of Christmas cracker retailing at $1,000: “Harrods Luxury 6 Christmas Cracker Collection: Bling it up this festive season!”
- OED, Second edition, 1989; online version November 2010. <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/43642#eid7942684>; accessed 23 December 2010. Earlier version first published in New English Dictionary, 1893.
- Peter Kimpton. Tom Smith’s Christmas crackers: an illustrated history. Tempus, 2005. ISBN 0-7524-3164-1
- Margaret Baker. Discovering Christmas customs and folklore: a guide to seasonal rites. p.72. Osprey Publishing, 1992. ISBN 0-7478-0175-4
- Fletcher, Damien (December 22, 2011). “Christmas traditions: The history behind crackers, mistletoe, turkey, stockings, tinsel, mince pies and more”. Daily Mirror. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
- “History of the Christmas Cracker”. History. Tom Smith Crackers. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Callow, Simon (2009). Dickens’ Christmas. London: Frances Lincoln. p. 138. ISBN 0711230315.
- London Christmas Past: The Invention Of The Christmas Cracker <http://londonist.com/2012/12/london-christmas-past-the-invention-of-the-christmas-cracker.php>
- Guinness World Records; online version November 2013. < http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/4000/longest-christmas-cracker-pulling-chain>; accessed 7 November 2013.