Add news
March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021June 2021July 2021August 2021September 2021October 2021November 2021December 2021January 2022February 2022March 2022April 2022May 2022June 2022July 2022August 2022September 2022October 2022November 2022December 2022
News Every Day |

History of Christmas crackers

Charlotte Mackaness doffs her paper hat to our favourite cracking invention

history of christmas crackers

The history of Christmas crackers is one surrounded by controversy. Even their original inventor is a source of on-going debate.

Christmas crackers still cause the annual family argument over who own the ubiquitous mini screwdriver set. (Read The Field’s guide to making your own Christmas crackers.)

The Victorians

It was the Victorians that invented this epitome of throwaway Christmas culture. Indeed, the Victorians invented much of what we recognise as our festive traditions. Christmas cake was introduced by Queen Victoria, with the fruitcake based on the Twelfth Cake. (Read The Field’s guide to the best Christmas puddings.)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tom Smith Crackers (@tomsmith1847)


While nobody argues that the history of Christmas crackers began in the late 19th century, there’s an on-going debate about their actual inventor. Some credit a chap called James Hovell, while one school of thought believes it was an innovative Italian by the name of Sparagnapane. But most side with the far less exotic-sounding Tom Smith, a confectioner from London.

The history of Christmas crackers. Holly and mistletoe are as much a part of a festive Christmas as Christmas crackers.

Holly and mistletoe are as much a part of a festive Christmas as Christmas crackers.

Give or take a few years, the the history of Christmas crackers began in 1860. It took not one but two Eureka moments to create the cracker as we know it. Supposedly, Tom Smith travelled to Paris in the 1840s where he was taken with bon-bons, sweets wrapped in a colourful twist of paper. Some time later the crackle of a log in the fireplace of the Smith family home gave him the idea for the snap.

“Who knows the truth?” says Peter Kimpton, an authority on the history of Chrismas crackers (the world’s only cracker historian) and author of The King Of Crackers. Perhaps Tom Smith was simply an excellent marketing man and did a good job in getting the message out that the idea was his. Regardless of who should claim the credit, there’s no denying it was a cracking invention, and one that has lasted 150 years.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tom Smith Crackers (@tomsmith1847)

Very little has changed in this time. To stay ahead of competitors, who had also started to produce bon-bons, Smith added a motto and, later, small trinkets.

“Tom Smith was brilliant at spotting gaps in the market and coming up with new ideas. For example, there were special crackers for spinsters and bachelors,” explains Kimpton.


“In Victorian days, people had the luxury of time to produce beautifully printed crackers and boxes. The mottos inside would have been poetic and romantic. Because there was nothing like radio or television for entertainment, much more would have been made of the crackers during the Christmas meal. A family would probably spend a long time poring over the crackers and comparing their contents,” he adds.

Decoration for cracker boxes was a serious business. Even the great Munnings started his working life producing designs for Caley’s, another important maker. “Proofs still exist of Munnings’s work with comments from him such as ‘Not my colours’ or ‘Not my layout,'” reveals Kimpton. “The crackers and boxes were beautifully decorated along various themes. Not only are they fantastic works of art, they’re also a chronicle of social history.”

The Royal Family, suffragettes, the Scout movement and the Thirties’ obsession with a Channel tunnel are just a few of the hot topics that found themselves on crackers. The festive bangers also helped with the war effort. Patriotic and militaristic decoration such as an English Tommy with a German eagle on a lead poured scorn on the enemy and boosted morale. During the Second World War the government even used cracker snaps to imitate gunfire for some fairly rudimentary troop training. This meant that cracker production was banned during the war.

According to Peter Kimpton, the period from the 1890s up to the end of the First World War was the heyday of the cracker, and then from 1953 one city was at the very centre of this flourishing festive industry: Norwich.

“Norwich was the cracker-making capital of the world,” he explains. “Several major factories, including Tom Smith’s and Caley’s, were based there. I worked for Tom Smith’s between 1986 and 1992 and even then we were making more than 50 million crackers a year.”

Today Tom Smith holds the Royal Warrant for Christmas cracker making

The history of Christmas crackers. The festive table is incomplete without a Christmas cracker.

The festive table is incomplete without a Christmas cracker.


One way of ensuring there’s something more inspiring than a comedy moustache in your cracker is to make or customise your own, something the Royal Family is said to favour. The disparity of cracker contents is one of the wonders of the festive season but, just like the awful jokes and the paper hats that always tear or fall off, ridiculous and sometimes useless prizes are half the fun and have become a Christmas tradition in their own right.

“The pointless plastic shapes that nobody could possibly want – except for small children who might choke on them – are always a source of amusement and bewilderment. Who designs them and what on earth could anybody want a plastic monkey for?” says Billie Baker from party planner Portfolio Events. “Mind you, I think most of us secretly like the mini sewing kits, padlocks and that sort of thing, they always come in handy.

“No matter how badly made they are or how laughable the contents, crackers are at the heart of a good Christmas party,” she continues. “They’re a great ice-breaker: if you’re sat next to someone you don’t know comparing prizes and groaning at the gags is a good way to get the conversation flowing. Crackers are also wonderful levellers as it is absolutely impossible to look good in the silly hats.”

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated. 

Read also

China And India Jostle In The Indian Ocean – Analysis

Alan Shearer warns England not to just focus on Mbappe as he names TRIO of French stars to fear in World Cup clash

I’m a 34G-cup – how I use boob tape to make my chest defy gravity, there are two important tips to follow

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on

News Every Day

In the age of megachurches, communion has become a big business — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here

News Every Day

Best Android app 2022 – Google reveals top pick for the year and it’s totally free

Sports today

Новости тенниса
Александр Николаенко

Генеральный директор ТГК-14 Николаенко покинул свой пост — СМИ

Спорт в России и мире

Саблисты из Подмосковья завоевали три медали на международных соревнованиях


All sports news today


Sports in Russia today


Саблисты из Подмосковья завоевали три медали на международных соревнованиях

Новости России

Game News

Bethesda QA workers are forming a union of their own


«Не надо навязывать детям свои приоритеты»: в Архангельске проходит профориентационный тренинг для педагогов

Губернаторы России

На чемпионате мира по футболу в Катаре работает волонтер с Алтая

В Москве при пожаре в квартире пострадали мать и двухлетний ребенок

Город предложил москвичам открыть три точки общепита в саду «Эрмитаж»

В Санкт-Петербург отправились КАМАЗы от «КАМАЗ-ЛИЗИНГ»

В Москве прошел социальный форум «Совместная работа региональных отделений Союза пенсионеров России и органов власти по сохранению здоровья пожилых людей»

Певец SHAMAN выступил на фестивале «Песня года» в Москве

Автор песен, Поэт Дмитрий ЗАЗВОНОВ с новыми песнями на Радио Песни Шансона!

Певица Лолита осталась без юбки на глазах у тысячи зрителей во время концерта в Химках

Даниил Крамер откроет всем джаз

"Трофеи Северной Пальмиры". Анастасия Потапова проиграла Юлии Путинцевой в первом матче финального противостояния

Генеральный директор ТГК-14 Николаенко покинул свой пост — СМИ

Юлия Путинцева высказалась о победе над Анастасией Потаповой на турнире "Трофеи Северной Пальмиры"

Роджер Федерер потренировался в академии Джона Макинроя в Нью-Йорке

Алиев готовится к новому Геноциду армян в Арцахе: предупреждение Института Лемкина

Евгения Медведева отметила Всемирный день катания на коньках на легендарном катке ВДНХ

В Москве прошел социальный форум «Совместная работа региональных отделений Союза пенсионеров России и органов власти по сохранению здоровья пожилых людей»

В Москве прошел социальный форум «Совместная работа региональных отделений Союза пенсионеров России и органов власти по сохранению здоровья пожилых людей».

Лукашенко: Военные РФ и Белоруссии готовятся как единая армия

Шеф Константин Ивлев выберет лучший новогодний салат в Петрозаводске

Путин изменил состав Госсовета: Кто туда попал, а кто исключён

Иван Николаев опроверг слухи о потере памяти у 82-летней Светланы Светличной

В Москве наградили победителей ежегодного национального рейтинга «Право.ру.300»

СУЭК продолжает реализацию программы "Наше здоровье: новые подходы к организации здравоохранения"

«Стратегия по восстановлению статуса империи». Как реагируют на «газовый союз» Путина Узбекистан и Казахстан?

Локальный рекреационный центр «Зеленый бульвар» создали в Чертанове Южном

Путин в России и мире

Персональные новости

Григорий Лепс

Лепс объяснил выходку на сцене проблемами со здоровьем: «Не все пошло по плану»

News Every Day

Five ways struggling families can get free cash to help pay for food this Christmas

Friends of Today24

Музыкальные новости

Персональные новости