Each year brightly coloured crackers are a familiar sight placed on the table or in the Christmas Tree usually containing a little trinket, a humorous limerick and of course the obligatory party hat.
Christmas crackers originated in the London (UK) confectionery trade in Victorian times. The generally accepted inventor was Tom Smith, a London born baker and confectioner. He was the founder of the group of the same name that today still claims to be the largest cracker manufacturer in the world.
He is said to have had the idea when on holiday in France, seeing sugar coloured almonds wrapped in twists of coloured tissue paper. On his return to England Tom Smith introduced the idea to his shop and sales boomed during the Christmas period but sales dropped once the festive season was over. Tom Smith then included little love mottoes but sales did not really increase.
Gazing upon a smouldering fire Tom Smith continued to ponder on how he could increase the sales. As he put another log on the fire a sputtering and crackling occurred...the next brilliant idea was born...to make a wrapping in the shape of a log, with a sweet and motto inside that opened with a bang. The Christmas cracker as we know it was designed.
Hats were included but rather than the typical crowns we see today, the traditional hats were rather more flamboyant including sheikh wraps and fezzes. These were made by milliners in the best quality paper. The original crackers were very ornate and reflected the tastes of time. Special ones were made for particular occasion such as weddings with white lace, Wedgwood ones, Coronation crackers, and even Prince of Wales crackers with crest feathers. An 18 ft long cracker was made for the Royal family with presents for all the guests.