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DIY Bookwitty Christmas Crackers

SultanaBun By SultanaBun Published on November 24, 2016

Decorative and nostalgic, Christmas crackers are the most benign of social lubricants. Two parties take a firm grasp of either end of the cracker and pull. Whoever gets the bigger end wins the contents of the cracker. It's high time to spread the craic (that's Irish for crack by the way) beyond the commonwealth.

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Christmas Crackers were invented by Tom Smith, a London sweet-maker, in 1847. To boost sales of his bon-bons, Smith first tried adding love messages to his paper-wrapped sweets. Predictably enough, it was the addition of a banger mechanism that brought an explosion in sales. Smith stuffed his crackers with trinkets such as fans and jewellery. His son, Walter Smith, gave a nod to the Roman feast of Saturnalia, known for it's elaborate headgear, by incorporating paper crowns.

To make your own Christmas crackers:

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     2. Cracker snaps. They can be found in art supply stores and online. Your crackers will still be worth making even without the snaps.

     3. Toilet roll tubes, one for each cracker.

     4. Sweets. Chocolate coins, and more recently chocolate Brussels sprouts, are another tradition of the British Isles.

     5. The aforementioned Saturnalian paper crown.

     6. Most importantly, a dreadful joke or riddle on a strip of paper. 

To make your own Saturnalian crowns:

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     1. Cut a strip of crepe paper 65cm long by 10cm wide. Any colour at all is good. Match your decor or your lipstick, it's up to you.

     2. Fold the strip and tape the ends so that it makes a circlet to fit an average head (hopefully your own head will be suitable. If not, draft in an average-sized head to model for you). My crown, laid flat, measures 26cm across.

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     3. Fold the crown in half, fold in half again, and then fold it in half a third time. 

     4. Snip the corner off from the centre point of one side to the top corner of the opposite side. Et voila, you are good to go for any Roman banquet

The Trinkets:

The gifts inside Christmas crackers are infamous  for their uselessness, but every now and then that mini deck of cards, tiny screwdriver, or emergency corkscrew-keyring turns out to be a life saver. 

The clear advantage of homemade Christmas crackers is that you can choose your trinkets to suit your audience. You are limited only by your imagination and the size of a toilet roll tube.

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A small candle to read by, or a book-light for those who have come into the 21st century. A cookie-cutter to make suitable reading-snacks. Pencils, erasers, and sharpeners for all those gorgeous colouring-books. Badges to declare your literary inclinations. Book vouchers, bookmarks, and bookish badges are a treat for bookaholics. Small, personalised decorations make lovely mementoes of a happy occasion. Key rings are traditional, but you could add the key to your apartment or maybe the key to a new car! Jewellery adds sparkle, especially genuine engagement rings. Be brave, be witty and have fun!

The Dreadful Jokes:

Christmas cracker companies put out requests for joke submissions every year. The most frequent reason for rejection of jokes is that they are too funny. I kid you not.Cracker jokes are supposed to be groan-inducing.

Here is a selection of guaranteed-awful book-related  jokes:

Why does Marx only drink herbal tea?
Because proper tea is theft.
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Nobel who?
There’s no bell, that’s why I’m knocking.
Where does Dumbledore keep his army?
Up his sleevy.
What did the comedian say to Harry Potter?
Why so Sirius?
On a scale of one to ten, how obsessed are you with Harry Potter?
About nine and three quarters.
Why did Jay Gatsby cross the road?
Because he saw a green light.
What do you get if you cross Ebenezer Scrooge with a sheep?
Baaaaah Humbug!
What did the frog say when he went to the library?
Reddit, reddit, reddit.
Why are books afraid of their sequels?
Because they always come after them.
Librarian: This is a library!
Man: (whispers) can I have a burger and chips?
What did the farmer say when he found a root vegetable in his reading material?
‘Oh look- that’s a turnip for the books!’

‘Hey Buddy, do you want another drink?’ the bartender asked Renes Descartes.
‘I think not,’ said the intoxicated man, and vanished.

Christmas Cracker Assembly:

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Lay the cardboard tube on top of the sheet of paper and fill it with a snap, a joke, a folded crown, a few sweets and a trinket.

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Use two more cardboard tubes to prevent the paper crumpling as you roll up the cracker and tie a ribbon at either end of the central tube.

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Curl your ribbons and stack 'em up! 

How to use a Christmas Cracker:

Crackers are most useful as conversation starters at cocktail parties. Sidle up to a handsome stranger and politely ask them if they would like to pull your cracker.

Crackers are the best of ice-breakers at family gatherings. They get the party started and you can take pleasure in demanding that your mother-in-law must wear her Saturnalian crown.

Pile bundles of crackers on buffet tables, stash them in the Christmas tree for gifting emergencies, or simply use them to decorate your festive table.

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Have a Cracking Happy Christmas!


    Irish blogger and book reviewer. Official contributor to Bookwitty.com and author of Bookwitty's monthly 'Cooking the Books' feature. Erstwhile microbiologist with an MSc in Food Science, she ... Show More


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