Ah Christmas Crackers…what would a Christmas meal be without a pop, poor joke and an ill fitting paper hat!
The origins of the cracker or ‘bonbon’ is somewhat murky. The tradition tells of how Thomas J. 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 fore runner for sweet wrappers.
Of course bon-bons are still sold and were certainly wonderful for removing my fillings what I was younger.
Anyway sales of bon-bons hit a down ward spiral so motto’s were added as a promotional gimmick, and a little later with the ‘crack’ (inspired by the crackle of his fire) and the bon-bon eventually replaced by a small and usually a small gift, I doubt if Smith could ever of foreseen the rather poorly made, and excuse the phrase ‘crap’ gifts we get today!
So that’s the basic tradition, however it appears that may not hold water because a letter dated 1817 by Lt. Colonel Felton Hervey, he tells us
The night before last Arthur Hill desired me to give a letter to the Duchess of Richmond, which I did very innocently. It contained one of these crackers, called Cossacks, which are sold in the fair here. It went off, and the duchess also, into one of the most violent fits of laughing hysterics ever witnessed. I am happy to say she does not think me guilty. I wonder it did not kill the old woman.
Anyway we join the most excellent Ruth Goodwin in a masterclass on cracker making.