Here it is, the one blog post you’ve been eagerly awaiting all… day (OK, maybe I’m just speaking for myself).
Now in its seventh year, I like to think of my annual round-up of the world’s best Christmas crackers as a Wee Birdy festive ritual, exploring and excitedly presenting my slightly-bonkers obsession with this most British of excellent Christmas traditions.
No Christmas table is properly dressed without a cracker at each place setting, and no Christmas lunch is complete without a round of minor-bangs, bad Dad jokes, crappy paper hats that fall over your eyes (unless they’re the $1,000 variety from Fortnums), and a little trinket that usually goes flying into the gravy boat.
I don’t mind if they’re one buck for a pack of 12 or a one cool grand for a wicker hamper of six, I love them all! But if I had to narrow it down, here it is: the 20 best Christmas crackers for 2014.
2. Thornback & Peel Hankie Crackers
Stag & Spot luxury crackers, set of six, £55, from Thornback & Peel. Each cracker contains a hat, snap, joke and a hand-printed festive Thornback & Peel handkerchief. Jolly good.
3. M&S’s giant novelty cracker
Giant novelty Christmas cracker, £19.50, from Marks & Spencer. The cracker contains gifts, hats and mottos. Kids would probably get a kick out of the ginormous plus-size.
4. Fortnum & Mason’s $1,000 crackers
Fortnum’s The King of Crackers, set of six, £1,000, from Fortnum & Mason. Each handcrafted ruched cracker contains all manner of luxury brand gifts: a black leather card holder from Launer of London; a pair of navy knitted cashmere gloves from heritage Scottish brand Johnstons of Elgin; a silver tie pin from Tatteossian, artisan-made pearl studs from Colman Douglas, a silver bookmark or a silver wine topper. The crackers also contain the traditional entertaining scroll and a fabric crown to keep. Well, I guess a paper hat would be somewhat inappropriate. Wowsers.
5. Magic Party Crackers from Lark
Magic Party Crackers, set of six, $29.95, from Lark. This cracker set contains six magic tricks, along with the obligatory party hat, joke and snap. Tricks include exploding dice, 3 ball return and magic cards. Deliver Christmas with a potential bang (via exploding dice). UK readers: head to Selfridges for Ridleys magic crakcers.
6. John Lewis 12 Days of Christmas crackers
Twelve Days of Christmas crackers, set of 12, £20, from John Lewis. Each cracker contains a snap, motto and hat along with one of the following: a bottle opener, metal yo-yo, bottle stop, tape measure, screwdriver set, carabiner, padlock, playing cards, metal puzzle, chess game, place card holder or folding corkscrew. Use each cracker as prompt to sing the Christmas carol around the dinner table… or not.
7. Light-up crackers from M&S
Light-up burgundy Christmas crackers, set of six, £45, from Marks & Spencer. I’m fairly certain this is the first light-up cracker (or indeed, any kind of technologically advanced cracker) to feature on my annual round-up of the best crackers. Each cracker contains a gift, hat and motto and ‘light-up features’. Switch the lights off and dazzle your guests. Well, the kids will love them, anyway. Lights! In crackers! Mind is boggling.
8. London crackers by Jennie Maizels
Iconic London crackers, set of six, £28, from The National Gallery. This set of handmade crackers are designed by Jennie Maizels, and each cracker contains one of Jenny’s London-themed iron-on patches, hat and motto. Of course, I LOVE the GUTS out of these wee crackers.
9. Fortnum’s Afternoon Tea crackers
Fortnum’s Afternoon Tea Christmas Crackers, set of six, £100, from Fortnum & Mason. Take note, Australians, it’s afternoon tea, not high-bloody-tea. Each cracker contains a miniature tea caddy containing one of Fortnum’s exclusive blends and miniature pot of Fortnum’s preserve in complementary flavours: Afternoon Blend and Strawberry Preserve, Royal Blend and Marmalade, Queen Anne and Damson Preserve, Assam and Raspberry Preserve, Earl Grey and Blueberry Preserve and Darjeeling and Strawberry Preserve. Very nice, too.
10. Heal’s children’s puppet crackers
Children’s puppet crackers, set of six, £25, from Heal’s. Each cracker contains one animal character finger puppet, a paper hat and a motto. Amuse small children, zaaany adults or get the kids to put on a puppet show after Christmas lunch.
11. Nancy & Betty’s Nutcracker crackers
Luxury Nutcracker crackers, set of six, £34, by Nancy & Betty. Handmade by this British design brand with their own very fine paper, each cracker contains a silver or gold foil paper hat, joke and snap. Gifts include marbles, pencil set, die, mini whisk, cookie cutter and egg cup.
12. Origami crackers from Lark
Origami party crackers, set of six, AU$29.95, from Lark. Made by British brand Lucky Lad, each cracker set features origami tricks, along with a party hat, joke and snap. Includes 30 origami sheets and instructions, so you can attempt to make tiny and rather impressive origami creations around the dinner table. Warning: could produce unintended hilarity, depending on individual level of fine motor skills and consumption of French bubbles. UK readers: head to Selfridges for a similar box of origami crackers.
13. Harrods Ice Princess crackers
Harrods of London Ice Princess luxury Christmas crackers, set of six, £99.95. Each cracker is embellished with a sparkling crown pin, and contains a paper hat, joke and one of six beautiful silver-plated gifts, including table bell, bottle opener, compact mirror, perfume atomiser, tealight candle holder and tape measure. A bit posh for wanna princesses.
14. Mackenzie-Childs Crackers
Mackenzie-Childs Crackers, set of six, £500, from Fortnum & Mason. Add a touch of Americana to the dinner table with these crackers from New York’s Mackenzie-Childs. Decorated in the brand’s signature check, each cracker contains a distinctive gold-plated Mackenzine-Childs keyring, plus the traditional paper crown and entertaining scroll.
15. Toast’s crackers made with hand-blocked Nepalese lokta papers
Christmas crackers, set of six, £35, from Toast. Each cracker uses Nepalese lokta papers that have been hand block-printed by women in the Kathmandu Valleys of Nepal. Decorated with hand-tied grosgrain ribbon, each cracker contains a riddle, a hat and a gift, such as, glycerine soap; jasmine flower tea bomb; miniature glass tree decoration; sparklers; mini beeswax candle; and rose-flavoured chocolate bar. Crafty types will give these crackers a big thumbs-up!
16. Sausage Dog Crackers
John Lewis Sausage Dog crackers, set of eight, £15, from John Lewis. A jolly sausage dog is stretched across each cracker, which contains a snap, motto, hat and a fun retro-style gift such as, marbles; bouncy ball; yo-yo; water pistol; fortune fish; jumping frog; skittles or harmonica.
17. Tetrahedron pattern crackers by Pentreath & Hall
Yellow tetrahedron pattern Christmas crackers, set of six, £40, by Pentreath & Hall. Each cracker is handmade in Dorset covered in Pentreath & Hall patterned paper, and contains a hat, snap and a joke, along with one of the following prizes; herb seeds, a wooden spoon, nail brush, star cookie cutter, dice, pack of marble, golf ball tees, plant labels. Perfect for design lovers. Or fans of geometry.
19. Gold, silver and copper crackers from Marks & Spencer
Gold, silver and copper Christmas crackers, set of six, £29.50, from Marks and Spencer. Each cracker contains a gift, hat and motto, and you’ll get a big tick for being bang on trend this season with mixed metallics. Give your Christmas table an extra touch of sparkle and lustrous sheen.