The Origins and Evolution of Christmas Crackers

Christmas crackers have become a staple at holiday dinners but have you ever wondered where this tradition came from? And why the jokes inside are always so terrible? Find out the facts here!

Typically, a Christmas cracker contains a paper hat, a small gift, and a joke – the quality of which is intentionally bad as it’s become part of the appeal for many.

The Origins of Christmas Crackers

The first Christmas cracker was invented in 1846 by British confectioner, Thomas Smith, who was inspired by a Parisian treat called a bob-bon. Smith adapted the idea into a festive sweet, which soon became a bestseller during the holiday season. Smith then had an idea to include romantic poems wrapped around the candy which became a popular gift for men to give to their partners.

The Evolution of Christmas Crackers

In 1860, Smith decided to add a “bang” to his Christmas crackers, which became an instant hit. Originally called cosaques, the crackers were soon referred to as “crackers” due to the sound they made when pulled apart. As the popularity of crackers grew, Smith replaced the candy with a surprise gift to set his crackers apart from the competition.

Today, Tom Smith Crackers, now owned by Brite Sparks, is one of the largest manufacturers of Christmas crackers in the world and is even enjoyed by the Royal family.

The Jokes Inside Christmas Crackers

By the end of the 1930s, the romantic poems inside Christmas crackers had been replaced by “bad” jokes. This tradition continues today with jokes such as:

What did one snowman say to the other?
Do you smell carrots?!

Why Are Christmas Cracker Jokes So Awful?

The jokes inside Christmas crackers are intentionally bad because that’s what people have come to expect and enjoy. It’s become part of the tradition and adds to the overall festive spirit.

If you’re curious about why Christmas Cracker jokes are notoriously terrible, look no further. Before you leave, share with us your favorite or least favorite joke from a cracker, as well as your favorite gift. Personally, I was fortunate enough to receive a fancy Christmas bear complete with a hat and scarf from a high-end cracker.


1. What are Christmas crackers?

Christmas crackers are a type of festive table decoration used in the United Kingdom, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries. They are typically made of cardboard tubes, wrapped in decorative paper, and contain a small gift, a paper hat, and a joke or riddle.

2. When were Christmas crackers invented?

Christmas crackers were invented in the mid-19th century by a London confectioner named Tom Smith. He was inspired by the French tradition of wrapping sweets in paper with a twist at both ends. Smith added a “bang” to his crackers by including a small amount of gunpowder inside the cardboard tube.

3. How did Christmas crackers become popular?

Christmas crackers became popular in the late 1800s when they were marketed as a festive alternative to bonbons (sweets) and other table decorations. They were especially popular with the upper classes, who enjoyed the novelty of the “bang” and the small gifts and trinkets inside.

4. What are some common gifts found inside Christmas crackers?

Common gifts found inside Christmas crackers include miniature toys, puzzles, keychains, and other small trinkets. Some crackers also contain more useful items such as screwdrivers, bottle openers, and nail clippers.

5. What is the significance of the paper hats found inside Christmas crackers?

The paper hats found inside Christmas crackers are a traditional part of the British Christmas dinner. They are said to represent the crowns worn by the Wise Men who visited baby Jesus in the Nativity story. The hats are often brightly colored and somewhat silly, adding to the festive atmosphere of the occasion.

6. How are Christmas crackers typically used?

Christmas crackers are typically placed on the table at Christmas dinner. Each person at the table pulls one end of a cracker with their neighbor, causing it to pop open and reveal the gifts and paper hat inside. The jokes or riddles are often read aloud and shared among the group.

7. Are Christmas crackers still popular today?

Yes, Christmas crackers are still a popular part of the festive season in many countries around the world. They have evolved over time to include a wider range of gifts and trinkets, but the basic concept of a “bang”, a hat, and a joke remains the same.

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