Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 18- Pop Goes the...

Hello and welcome to Day 18 of Advent Countdown. Today I'll be looking at the origins of Christmas crackers (and having a little too much fun with the jokes).

So where did the idea come from? Well it's all down to a London bon-bon maker named Tom Smith. On a visit to Paris he discovered bon-bons wrapped in tissue paper (in the traditional way- with a twist at either end), and decided to try sell them himself. This was in 1847.

However, they didn't sell so well. Desperate to up his sales, he created various promotions. His first was to include messages inside the sweet wrapper. As most of his sweets were bought by men for women, these messages were love poems. 

In 1860, he landed on the 'cracker' element while staring into a log fire. He was inspired by the crackling and sparks, and incorporated them into new packaging for his bon-bons. Obviously, the wrapper had to be made much larger to include the 'cracker' mechanism. 

Over time the sweet was replaced by trinkets. They were originally called 'Cosaques' (after the Cossacks- who were stereotypically seen as riding on horseback, firing into the air), but replaced by the onomatopoeic 'cracker'. 

When Tom died his sons took over his business. Walter Smith eventually added the paper hat in the 1900's, and by the 1930's the love messages were replaced by jokes and limericks. They had themed crackers too, such as ones for bachelors, Suffragettes and even the British Royal Family. All of this was designed to differentiate them from the mass of rival companies who'd suddenly sprung up. 

But back to the jokes. Christmas cracker jokes are infamous for being truly awful, eliciting groans from those who hear them. This is actually a carefully devised plan. It was decided by the powers that be, that all cracker jokes must be abysmal, so that everyone could agree they were. This was intended to prevent any arguments with family members on Christmas. Rather than splitting the family into 'those who loved the joke' and 'those who didn't' (because that is absolutely what would happen), they wanted everyone to agree. Which is why we now have cringe-worthy rubbish like this:

"What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Cue the groans. Despite that (or perhaps because of it), they do have a kind of charm. It's traditional for them to be terrible. You expect it, and it's makes them enjoyable in their own stupid way. Some of them even reach the 'so bad they're good' mark. Here's one:

"Who delivers presents to baby sharks on Christmas Eve?
Santa Jaws"

Credit: Original non-photoshopped photo here:

Enjoy this photo I've photoshopped for you all. I'm truly sorry, but I couldn't get the image out of my head. Some of you may know I'm a huge fan of 'shark movies', so obviously Jaws holds a special place in my heart. Both the book and the movies (that's right movieS, plural. Yes, the sequels are terrible, but my God they're enjoyable (except Jaws 3-D. I just pretend it never existed)).

Anyway, I thought I'd have a go at my own cringe-inducing Christmas cracker joke. Why not, right? It is Christmas after all. The more the merrier and all that. Here's what I came up with:

Where do Hogwarts students go at Christmas?
A winter wand-erland

Oh come on guys. It wasn't that bad. You know, that was actually kind of fun. Let's try another:

What do robins do in winter?
Go on holly-day.

Okay, I'll stop now. A small disclaimer: If you want to share my Christmas cracker jokes (HA!) anywhere, please credit me. Thank you. I wonder if I'm delusional?

Ahem, let's move on shall we? If you have any cracker jokes of your own, or any personal favourites, please share them with me. It wouldn't be Christmas without them. 

Thank you all for joining me for Day 18 of Advent Countdown. See you all tomorrow for Day 19. Are you panicking yet?


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