Each year as the festivities begin, you’ll stock yourself up on Christmas crackers, and on the big day, they’ll be placed strategically around the table. 

You’ll pull your cracker with someone nearby, ensuring that everyone at least wins once. Inside, there is typically a paper crown, a trinket and a joke. Although the traditional crackers are filled with small throwaway objects, including mini card decks and dice even now, they’re still changing. 

Some people use crackers as a Christmas present in themselves, making their own and featuring personal trinkets inside. The gifts still need to be small and compact, so some people use personalised pens or select a small gift that they know the individual will find useful such as a mini screwdriver or lip balm. 

While traditions are changing, it’s worth considering how crackers came to be in the first place, and why they became such a vital part of the Christmas experience. 

The tradition started in the late 1800s after London sweet-maker Tom Smith invented them. He included mottos or riddles inside each one, but when he found a way to make them crack when pulled apart, his sales soared. It’s been reported that he was inspired by the loud crackle of a fire, and wanted to replicate it within the products. As a result, according to The Telegraph, his sons, Walter and Henry later added hats and novelty gifts.

As the cracker business grew, so did adaptations on the original version. Not only can people create their own crackers now, but expensive versions called Millionaire’s crackers were also created, according to WhyChristmas. The pricey decoration contained a solid silver box with a piece of gold and silver jewellery inside of it. 

The original company continued to have a monopoly on crackers, and most replicas featured the usual cheap and cheerful products, rather than increasing the price and opting for something more expensive. 

Christmas Day is famously a celebration where people get together and get themselves in the festive spirit. The jokes inside the Christmas character are created to mimic this, according to Express.co.uk. They said: “The more ‘bad’ the jokes, the more likely people are to react in the same way and agree with one another. This means the jokes are a reliable way to bring people together on Christmas if the festive spirit hasn’t done already.”

Crackers weren’t specifically made for Christmas, but because their popularity first came around Christmas, they became associated with the festive season. Because the crackers contain crowns, trinkets and jokes, they’ve continued to be an important part of the celebrations. Most people will wear the crowns while they’re eating their dinner, as well as sharing the jokes among the rest of the family. 

Tom Smith’s company still makes more than 50 million crackers every year, and it’s likely the sweet maker’s legacy will continue to grow. While personalised crackers are gaining popularity, many people are opting for tradition over quality.