Christmas Crackers: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Christmas crackers.

  • A Christmas cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped in brightly coloured paper. It makes a bang or crack when pulled open and usually contains a toy or a joke.
  • Crackers are usually pulled by 2 people, each holding one of the ends. They are popular in the UK during the Christmas meal, as well as in Australia, Canada and South Africa.

  • Tom Smith, a London baker, invented the Christmas cracker in 1847 after visiting Paris. Smith based his novelty on traditional French sweets which were wrapped in twisted coloured paper.
  • The crackers contained a chemical which made the distinctive popping noise when pulled. Smith’s invention became known as a cracker, as it sounded like the crack of a whip.
  • Smith had sold over 13 million crackers by 1900, during fairs, coronations and other occasions, as well as at Christmas time. In the early 1930s, crackers began to contain small toys, jewellery and ornaments.
  • There were several fires at the Tom Smith cracker warehouse during the 20th century, most recently in 1963. Today, the International Greetings Group owns the Tom Smith brand name.
  • Christmas crackers were banned by the government during World War 2.
  • Many Christmas crackers contain paper hats. The wearing of celebration hats goes back as far as Roman times when people taking part in seasonal festivities wore hats.
  • One of the largest paper crackers ever made measured 63 metres long and 4 metres in diameter. It was made by parents of children at a Buckinghamshire school in 2001 and it banged when it was pulled.
  • Popular items inside crackers include rings, pens, playing cards, tape measures, key rings and slips of paper containing a joke.
  • In 2010 the Royal Mint made a unique £10,000 cracker that contained 5 22 carat gold coins.