About ten years ago I asked my husband to bring me some Christmas crackers back from his 17th business trip to London that year. My (then) two children were really getting into Christmas so I thought I’d throw in as many British traditions as I could. The likelihood of them eating sticky Christmas pud complete with brandy butter was remote, and Brussels sprouts were practically banned from the house, but I knew they would go for Christmas crackers.
Back in the day, you couldn’t get them in the US for love nor money. I once asked my mother to send some, but the postage made them ridiculously expensive, so I leapt at the chance to have them hand delivered by the Ball & Chain. I told the kids about these fabulous crackers and our excitement mounted as daddy walked through the door – and presented us with a lovely tin of Harrods ginger cookies or something. Certainly weren’t Christmas crackers. Disappointed.
This year I paid through the nose for three boxes of Christmas crackers from Cost Plus/World market, and took them into the Little Guy’s classroom. I was the “foreigner” coming in to talk about Christmas traditions from around the world. They seemed disappointed to find the crackers weren’t at all edible, but that soon dissipated when they saw the cheap plastic toy inside, and of course, the paper crown. I explained that sensible grown-ups eat their entire Christmas dinner with said paper crowns perched atop their noggins, and the kids looked like they didn’t believe me. What’s so funny about that?
We are spending this Christmas with my American in-laws, and wouldn’t you know, I have just enough crackers left for all of us.
I think Crackers are one of the coolest things about Christmas in Britain (Boxing Day is another), even though, on my first UK Yule Tide, when my wife was still my fiancée and her mum sent us to get the Christmas Crackers, I was confused that we didn’t go to the biscuits and cracker isle and headed toward the seasonal section, instead.
Now, of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without crackers. They appear at every festive dinner throughout the season and every time they do, they make people forget they are British. These normally staid citizens of Great Britain set upon them, snap them open with their table partners, willingly don the paper crown for the duration of the meal and read the achingly awful joke out for all to hear. As near as I can figure, there must be some sort of legislation compelling this behavior; I can offer no other explanation.
For the uninitiated among you, a Christmas Crack looks like a gaily wrapped, empty toilet paper tube, but with a naff gift and the aforementioned crown and joke inside along with enough explosives to put them in the “Dangerous Device” category, making them illegal to send in the mail and causing some airlines to forbid carrying them aboard least you attempt to bring down an Airbus A330 with one, but which, in practice, makes a sound about half as loud as a Greenie Stick ‘em Cap.
If you’re an ex-pat living in the UK, we’d love to hear what you think of these foreign, but irresistible holiday devices, and if you grew up with them, what are you’re feelings about them, and, most of all, what do you who have never heard/seen/experienced Christmas Crackers think of the idea? Crackers, or what?
Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!
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