20 Best Christmas Crackers 2011
It’s back! Wee Birdy’s annual Christmas cracker round-up! Supposedly invented by Londoner Thomas J.Smith in 1847 as a marketing ploy to add interest and value to his bon-bon sweets, crackers are one of the most English of Christmas Day traditions.
So what makes a good cracker?
Firstly, it must look good. A Christmas table isn’t properly dressed without a splendid-looking cracker adorning each place setting, so choose wisely. It must also contain a wonderfully-interesting trinket (which could also be spectacularly crap – just as long as it keeps everyone amused while the turkey is carved). There must be a paper hat and it must be worn – at least until the end of the first course. There should also be some quality bad jokes to be read aloud around the table. Finally, it must go bang. (Or ‘snap included’, in cracker-speak.)
Also, this is the very first Wee Birdy post where some of the products link to an affiliate site. Now, you know how picky I am about my crackers, so there is no way that I would compromise my editorial integrity by including anything that I wasn’t genuinely excited about. But since Wee Birdy is now my full-time job, I’ve decided to test affiliate links from time to time over the next few months (they are the ‘Click here to buy’ links). I only recently discovered that so many of the products I recommend actually have associated affiliate programs, so it made sense to give it a go. If you’d like to buy one of my recommended products, you’ll be supporting Wee Birdy and keeping it up and running. Yeah! (And thank you in advance!)
Let’s see what made my Top 20 this year…
1. THE BEST VALUE CRACKER
John Lewis cream and gold Christmas Crackers, £10 for a pack of six, from John Lewis. Click here to buy.
With a line-up of quality trinkets including photoclip, clothes brush with mirror, mini scissors, phone charm, bottle stopper, tape measure and an egg cup, these luxe-looking crackers are great value for a tenner. Otherwise, you can’t go past Tesco’s Value Crackers, where you get 10 crackers for £1 (though I can’t vouch for the contents or quality).
2. THE BIRDY CRACKER
Christmas Bird Crackers, £30 for a pack of six, by Cath Kidston. Click here to buy.
You can count on Cath Kidston to make a festive cracker with a sweet retro sensibility. Each cracker is filled with an assortment of Cath Kidston goodies, including a set of three badges, mini playing cards, two hair slides, compact mirror, mini pencils and red hanky.
3. THE FAIR TRADE CRACKER
Fair Trade dinner crackers, £9.99 for six, from Oxfam.
These recycled crackers feature blank name cards that slot into place on each cracker, so you can use them as place cards. The presents are Fair Trade and include a handmade notebook, friendship bracelet, earrings or a spinning top.
4. THE HANDSOME CRACKER
Box of Blue Handmade Celestial Christmas Crackers, £29.95 for six, from Liberty. Click here to buy.
Reminiscent of Liberty’s iconic Hera print, these ornate crackers are hand-embellished with a peacock feather and offer a stunning alternative to the traditional holly-and-berries crackers. Along with the usual line-up of hat, snap and motto, gifts include a lipstick case with mirror, ballpoint pen and a compass.
5. THE HISTORIC CRACKER
Box of Mr and Mrs Liberty Christmas Crackers, £34.95, from Liberty. Click here to buy.
Historic photos of Mr and Mrs Liberty first started to appear on Liberty merchandise about two years ago, but this is the first time they’ve landed their own crackers. Three cheers for Mr and Mrs Liberty! They’re looking suitably splendid in purple and gold and offer an assortment of trinkets such as a compact mirror, miniature photo frame and a clothes brush.
6. THE MUSICAL CRACKER
Carol Concerto Crackers, £39.95 for eight, from Harrods.
These hand-crafted crackers are exclusive to Harrods and contain Xylophone keys and a conductor’s baton so you can have your own little carols session around the Christmas dinner table. There are also numbered crowns, jokes and the traditional snap.
7. THE RETRO SWEETIE CRACKER
Retro spot mini crackers, £18.95 for a box of nine, from Selfridges. Click here to buy.
Confession: these cute handmade crackers almost didn’t make the cut. They don’t have hats. Or jokes. And I’m not entirely sure they go bang. But each one contains a mini packet of Love Hearts. Too sweet to ignore, right?
8. THE ENTERTAINING CRACKER
Box of six Scrabble crackers, £18.95 for six, from Selfridges. Click here to buy.
Now here’s a new idea for your classic board game: turn it into a box of entertaining crackers! Containing hats, mottos, and letter-moving puzzles, this box of Scrabble crackers also boasts a game board, letter tiles, letter-tile holders and more Scrabble paraphernalia and game instructions. I can’t work out if you get your starter letter tiles in each cracker – but it would be kinda silly if they didn’t. Monopoly and Twister crackers are also available.
9. THE PARTY CRACKER
Party print crackers, £19.95 for six, from The Conran Shop.
The Conran Shop also has a gorgeous line-up of beautifully-designed crackers, and this one is no exception. These little lovelies contain hats, jokes and quality practical gifts.
10. THE BEAUTY TREATS CRACKER
Lancome Beauty Christmas crackers, £38 for a box of six, from Selfridges. Click here to buy.
The perfect cracker for Christmas lunch with the girls. Available only at Selfridges, each cracker contains a mini Lancome beauty treat (either Génifique 7ml, Visionnaire 7ml, Bi–Facil 30ml, L’Absolu Rouge Mini, Juicy Tube 7ml, Hypnôse Mascara Mini), hat and beauty tip (so good we’ll forgive them for the missing joke).
11. THE VINTAGE CRACKER
Mini vintage Christmas crackers, £7.50 for a box of six, from Hunkydoryhome.
Give your Christmas table a retro vibe with these ultra-cute mini crackers in a ‘50s-inspired snowy village design. Each cracker contains a novelty hat, motto/joke and snap.
12. THE BEAUTIFUL CRACKER
Over the rainbow crackers, AU$110 for a box of six, from Papier D’Amour.
These stunning crackers from Sydney-based store Papier D’Amour contain trinkets such as a mini flask key ring, crystal perfume bottle, silver cufflinks with crystals, crystal memo clip and luggage tag.
13. THE HIGH ROLLER’S CRACKER
Glad Tidings Cracker, £1,000 for box of six, from Fortnum & Mason.
No Wee Birdy cracker round-up is complete without the ridiculously-expensive cracker, and Fortnums never lets me down. I always get a voyeuristic thrill inspecting the ultra-luxe contents. These wonderfully ornate crackers are presented in a polished walnut box, and contain silver-plated trinkets including a sugar dredger, egg cup and spoon. (Really? Surely you’d get your very own live miniature pig for that price.)
14. THE PRACTICAL PRESENTS CRACKER
Santa and reindeer boxed crackers, AU$50 for a box of 12, from Papier D’Amour.
Cooks and gardeners will love the gifts in these traditionally festive crackers, which include a silicone cup cake mould, travel corkscrew, sun stamp and inkpad, home-made food labels, wooden herb markers, gingerbread man cookie cutter and copper plant markers.
15. THE CRAFTY CRACKER
Meri Meri Tis The Season Christmas Crackers, £15 for a pack of eight, from John Lewis. Click here to buy.
Meri Meri is the super-lovely name behind beautiful partyware, and this year’s reflects the brand’s attention to gorgeous detail. Each cracker contains a hat, a joke and presents such as playing cards, a music maker, bouncy ball, dice, bowling set, water shooter, bottle opener keychain or a magic trick.
16. THE BEST OF BRITISH CRACKER
Best of British cracker, £15 for a box of six, from Marks & Spencer.
Celebrate one of Britain’s greatest traditions with these patriotic set of Union-Jack-emblazoned crackers. Each cracker contains a gift, motto and hat, as well as a British-themed trivia game. Gifts include a screwdriver set, sewing kit and mini nail clippers.
17. THE CHARITY CRACKER
Rainbow Crackers, £10 for a box of five, from the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity.
Choose crackers with a conscience and help raise money for the Rainbow Trust. Each cracker contains a hat, joke and an individual number that you register for a chance to win a £5000 Boodles diamond.
18. THE KIDS’ CRACKER
Mask Adventure Christmas Mini Crackers, £5 for a pack of six, from John Lewis. Click here to buy.
Children will love these mini crackers featuring cute Christmas character masks instead of paper hats. They also contain the traditional favourites (snap, motto and joke) as well as a secret task to complete, like, ‘try to get the word Rudolph into the next three conversations without it sounding silly’.
19. THE COOL DESIGN CRACKER
P&C Christmas Cracker, £11.50 each, from Present & Correct.
Online stationery shop Present & Correct is a long-time Wee Birdy favourite, and they’ve really come up trumps this year with this artful handmade cracker filled with all sorts of high-quality papery, design-y delights. Each cracker contains a 2012 tag book calendar, a rubber stamp, a christmas pencil, some erasers, a 10cm ruler, a lucky chocolate sixpence, a Scrabble letter magnet, some confetti and a label. No hat or jokes but it surely goes bang.
20. THE DIY CRACKER
Make your own crackers with accessories, £3.99, from Oxfam.
Get crafty and make your own crackers with this handy kit containing recycled paper, jokes, hats, ribbons, snaps and instructions. Notch up some more ethical points and add a Fair Trade gift from the Oxfam website, like lipbalm, chocolate coins and jewellery.
p.s. You must check out these incredible handmade Christmas crackers by London-based blogger Junkique. They’re the best I’ve ever seen!
They were made using prints of 18th century book illustrations, and include handmade paper hats, jokes typed up on an old-school typewriter and presents from design shop Magma. They even go bang! (They ripped out the snaps from some cheapie Sainsbury crackers.) So very clever!
Top photo of lovely Christmas spread courtesy of Cath Kidston.