Monday, 13 December 2010

Crackers for Christmas

This post is in collaboration with the wonderful Mia in Finland and her Christmas Calendar. Please pop over and visit her delightful blog, she is posting a Christmas craft item every day until Christmas. For  my contribution I offered to share how I make my Christmas crackers. Perhaps I may even inspire you to have a go! Mia has not seen crackers before so for some of you this may be something quite new. Here in the UK they have been around since 1847!

My Christmas table would not be complete without having a cracker at every place setting. We always pull our crackers just before we eat and put on the silly paper hats and read the silly jokes. They never fail to amuse.
I have always loved pulling crackers on Christmas Day and finding the jokes and the small gifts inside, they are a great source of enjoyment. Over the years though I have found it difficult to find ones that are suitable for everyone who sits around my table. I started buying "fill your own" crackers but then a  few years ago I decided to start making them from scratch and they have "evolved" into the ones I make now.

Tom Smith invented the cracker in England in 1847 and there is a very interesting history if you have a look at the link posted here.

They are still sold in the shops today, these photos are from a display in our local garden centre.

To make my home made variety this is a list of the things you need.

1.Inner cardboard rolls/tubes found in kitchen rolls (this longer length is better that those from toilet rolls).
2. Crepe paper, 1 or 2 colours.
3.Cracker bangs, found on EBay or in craft shops like Hobbycraft.
4.Paper hats, as above.
5.Jokes... there are lots on the Internet.
6.Double sided sticky tape.
7.Foil tying ribbon.
8.Decoration for the front, of your choice.

I start collecting kitchen roll centres from late autumn and I use these both for the centre of the cracker and for forming the end pieces. Here follows my way of making them, please use it as a guide as no doubt I have omitted some of the process..I never did get onto "Blue Peter" as a little girl!

First cut a 1/4 off one end of a cardboard tube to use as the middle section (the kitchen roll middle is just a bit too long to use in its entirety)and place it between to 2 full length tubes. This middle section will contain the joke, banger, hat and present. The other 2 tubes are just used for forming "pull" ends, the paper tends to collapse if you do not have a former in place. ( NB Please note in the photo below the top tube should also be a kitchen roll length, I didn't have enough at the time I took the photos, a toilet roll tube can do the trick too.)

Unroll the crepe paper and lie it full width and then cut 2 pieces of crepe paper that will meet around the middle of the tubes.This can be either a single colour or 2 as I have shown here.
Then cut a small piece off the end of the colour paper that you want for the outside. I use pinking shears to give a pretty edge but ordinary scissors are fine. 2 sheets of crepe  paper works best as it rips well when you pull the cracker. Only using 1 thickness makes it too flimsy. Other types of paper either rip too easily or you struggle to pull them as they are too thick.

Take the middle tube out and fill it with a present, paper hat, cracker bang and joke. If necessary tie them with string or a rubber band to keep them in a bundle. Take care that you keep the cracker bang hanging out of either end of the middle tube, it has a great tendency to slip out! Put this filled tube back between the other rolls as in the photo above. The cracker bang  will protrude slightly into both the end tubes. The other contents should be kept inside the middle tube.

Have the shorter length of  paper on the outside and then roll up the papers around the 3 kitchen rolls . Seal them with sticky tape.

Next carefully pull one of the tubes out a little way to make a small gap. You need to feel the gap under the papers, so that you can tie off one end with curling ribbon.Repeat this at the other end so that the filled middle  tube becomes a kind of "sausage", sealed away ,with 2 open ends for pulling.

You can trim the paper ends if they need neatening up but be careful not to catch the end of the cracker banger which is inside. At this point it's also not a bad idea to write some small initials somewhere on it so that you know whose cracker it is! I put this underneath the cracker out of the way.

Now that you have make the basic cracker you can put any decoration on the front. These are just some suggestions.

I tend to try to match my crackers to the serviettes I have bought to use on the table for that year.These are my serviettes I have chosen this year featuring a tree with presents.

I decided to use green and red crepe paper and then to pick out the gold as an extra  wrap around the cracker (any wrapping paper works well). I have not quite finished the 8 that I need but here are 3 of them finished.

These will be sitting on the table on Christmas Day.

One final word of warning when making these................try to keep any naughty cats away as they SO love batting the paper,string etc-LOL

Naughty Billy, he just cannot resist getting involved.

Enjoy your crackers with your Christmas dinner, either shop bought or home made I am sure they will go with a bang!

Bye for now,

Jane (plus her assistant Billy) x


  1. Good morning Jane! What a lovely idea! I think I have seen these but didn't remember now. Wonderful sweet thing for the Christmas table!
    Thank you! xxx Teje

  2. Good morning Teje, I am so suprised that some of my overseas blogging friends are not familiar with Christmas crackers! It is lovely to show our different traditions/customs and I am delighted to share these with you.
    Take care,
    Jane x

  3. I am getting the distinct impression that you like Christmas and all the 'trimmings'!! I have some of those make your own crackers (from at least 2 years ago) that I have never done, the reason being I never know what to put in them, gift wise. What sort of thing do you put in Jane? My age ranges are from 7yrs to 50+ yrs both male and female so its difficult to not give the men folk beads :O) I do love seeing Billy helping out. Laney x

  4. As I said on Mia's blog, is there no end to your talents Jane.
    That's a great tutorial! I'm amazed that crackers aren't a world wide thing.
    Thanks Jane and Billy for sharing. :)
    Vivienne x

  5. I do love ALL the trimmings Laney-LOL! Re gifts, I would suggest;tiny size shower gels and creams (Body Shop smallest bottles fit, Lush versions don't),choc santas/tree chocs (Thorntons do a good Robin in a box which fits),Christmas Lotto scratch card (my dad won £10 one year!),nail varnish,tiny torch,small items of jewellery, ie earrings,cufflinks etc,nail clippers,coin-thing that fits shopping trollies etc. I take my kitchen roll tube shopping with me to check what always amuses the shopping assistants! Have fun filling your crackers,
    Jane x

  6. *Blush* thank you Vivienne, you are so kind. I too was amazed that crackers are not was great to share this.
    I hope your snow has finally melted - but it looks like more is on the way!
    Keep warm,
    Jane x

  7. What fun you must have creating these, and your guests must be delighted at the personal touch and thought! Such festive place settings - I hope there is a small treat for Billy, as well! :o)

  8. ..of course our Billy does not get left out Michele..rumour has it there is a new collar coming for him and he always has a portion of our smoked salmon starter and a piece of turkey.Mmmmm I am getting hungry thinking about Christmas dinner!!
    Jane x

  9. Hello Jane What a lovely idea to make your own crackers - then you can choose your own colours, jokes and special little gifts for everyone. Yours look lovely and very well made. Have a lovely festive week.
    Helen x

  10. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Jane, for sharing this with me (and all the other Christmas lovers!)!!

    I only have seen crackers in movies and read about them in books (this sounds really sad now but it's true) but I haven't seen any in real life! I loved your tutorial, and would love to make these as our Christmas tradition too, for 25th for example as we open the presents on 24th already but where to get the bangs, ebay did you say? Hm... For next Christmas for sure!

    What a lovely and festive post!

    Kisses to B!


  11. Hi Helen, yes these are so individual. I do like matching my serviettes and also like that the gifts are useable! Enjoy your evening,
    Jane x

  12. I'm delighted to have shown you these Mia. I buy the cracker bangs either off Ebay or this year my local craft shop had them.If you cannot get them let me know and I will post you some- but yes it will have to be for next year now!!;0)
    Jane x

  13. Hi Jane, Thank you for taking me back home. I love your version and the way you decorated them. I am saving for future.

    Have a Blessed Day,
    Hugs, Dani

  14. I had to come back foe second round :)

    Thank you so much for your for a cracker-supply-offer next year if I cannot find them here! And do I recognize a certain keyring inspected by Billy in one of the pics ;) -hmm...?

    Happy evening!


  15. Hi Dani. I'm glad to have given you some English memories, enjoy
    Jane x

  16. You have Eagle Eyes Mia, yes it is indeed a rather special handmade by Mia keyring you have spotted with Billy for my rather special daughter to find in her cracker on Christmas day! Do let me know about the cracker bangs. It has been great to have your link :0)
    Jane x


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Jane x