Friday, December 16, 2011

How to make a Christmas Crackers

My Introduction to Christmas Crackers

On my trip to England I saw a woman in her fifties come out of the bank with a circle of purple tissue paper around her head. I found it strange. I even did a double take, which I don't normally do. (I did grow up in San Francisco after all, I've seen my share of strange.)

Later the next day I got on a crowded train and noticed a teenager further down on the train with a crinkled piece of green tissue paper wrapped around his head like the cheapest piece of garbage crown I had ever seen in my life. I asked the man I was sitting next to why that boy was wearing that thing on his head.

"He must have just come from a Christmas party," he said then he went back to reading his paper.

Oh, that explains it.

I asked him what a Christmas party and that hat had in common. He put down his paper and looked at me like my accent just dawned on him.

"Oh, those crowns come in Christmas crackers," he said.

Crackers? Like a Ritz? I asked him how they got a piece of tissue paper in and out of a cracker. Yes, I really did ask him this.

It took several minutes of us talking back and forth for me to realize that you don't eat Christmas crackers and that a Ritz would be considered a biscuit.

When I got to my friends house in Besselsleigh I saw what a cracker was. I had seen them before I just didn't know what they were called. The one she had at her house her daughter had made in preschool. We went to eat at the pub down the street and they gave us all crackers with our dinner. I was instantly in love with them.

I bought some at Sainsbury's to bring home with me but when I wanted to buy some at home, I was out of luck. And shipping them online was pricy as well. So I figured that if my friends preschooler can make them, so can I.

The Part Where I Make Them

I made these crackers for my sons Harry Potter birthday party. I can think of at least two Christmas' in the book where Harry has crackers. Since the party was in mid-December, I found a bunch of bad Harry Potter jokes and got to work.

What you need

wrapping paper
toilet paper tube (I like paper towel rolls cut in 1/3)
scissors and glue gun
curling ribbon (or any other kind)
OPTIONAL: cracker snap (you can buy them HERE)
OPTIONAL: stiffeners (not pictured. oops!)

bad jokes on paper (mine haven't been cut out yet)
tissue paper crowns (you can make these yourself)
trinkets (I gave glow-in-the-dark silly bands)

1. Start by placing your tube in the wrapping paper.
2. Roll wrapping paper around tube and cut enough paper to wrap the tube around then cut.
OPTIONAL SNAP: Place the snap in the paper and roll the tube over it (without securing the snap- or some people secure it with a little scotch tape)
3. Roll paper around the tube and secure it with the glue gun

4. Use the glue gun to glue the edges of the paper together into a tube

By the time you are done it should be a tube that looks like this.
The paper is a big tube. The paper towel tube is in the center. 
The snap is secured between the paper and the tube.

OPTIONAL STEP: Stiffeners. They are just thick paper (card stock will do) that you can cut to the diameter of the tube (give or take)
I just roll them up and stick one in each end (two stiffeners per cracker)
I put the stick of the snap inside the stiffener, where as it is outside of the tube.
I position the stiffener with about an 1 1/2" gap between the stiffener and the tube.
You can see the space below (at least I tried to show you by pinching it)
If you don't do the stiffeners, I suppose you could use tubes to secure the shape then pull the tubes out after the ends have been tied.

6. Pinch and tie. Pinch the space between the stiffener and the tube and tie it off with ribbon. Just do this to ONE side (for now)

7. Then I fold the wrapping paper into the stiffener and secure it and the snap with hot glue.

8. Now is the time to stuff in the tissue paper hat, the prize (or candy), and the joke
9. Secure the other end
10. Finished!

Decorate your Christmas table with them.
Give them to children.
Use them for a New Years Eve party.
Wrap real presents in them (instead of cracker jack prizes)
You can make mini ones and decorate your tree with them

How To Open a Cracker

It isn't something you do by yourself. You do it with a friend (or a whole table full of them.) It just takes one person to pull from one end and a friend to pull from the other. They are made of paper after all.

And Just For Fun

Here is a six minute video on cracker making in London in 1910
if you don't want to watch the whole thing fast forward to 5:08 for the coolest cracker I've ever seen.


Any Good Christmas Cracker Memories of Your Own?
Any Tips for my Tutorial?
Anything Fun You Like To Do With Crackers?


  1. lol When you first mentioned that you hadn't heard of these I was going to ask if you'd read Harry Potter. Obviously you have. Great description on how to make. What a lot of work!

  2. I'm with Donna, my first exposure to crackers was in Harry Potter. What a fun Christmas tradition.

  3. My step-father-in-law is from Bath and he visits his family once a year and always brings us crackers. Love them!

  4. Love the tutorial! Since we are not going any where for Christmas we will have to make some of these to keep busy :) The kids will love it. And I had forgotten the tradition of crossing your arms and pulling the crackers with friends. Fun. Thanks so much!

  5. I didn't realise that Americans did have Christmas crackers. Here in Australia they're as common as flies. (And a Ritz and a Christmas cracker are both crackers here)

  6. I have never heard of this before! Thank you for the introduction.


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