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Christmas Crackers: Should We Ditch This Yule Tradition?

The Christmas season is one of the important celebrations in our life. It primarily celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, particularly special for Catholics and Christians in their faith. It is also a season of giving, where we give gifts to our beloved friends, family, and relatives. Aside from this, it is the time where we enjoy our long holidays from school and works. Here we have gatherings and other celebrations with our loved ones.

Christmas, Crackers

One of the unique highlights in the Christmas season is when we celebrate. For Brits and other Western nations, getting Christmas crackers is one of the most exciting parts of the celebration.

What are Christmas Crackers?

 Christmas crackers are in a paper roll with a colorful wrap in it. Each cracker is twisted at both ends, making it look like candy. It can also have a bang, especially exciting when the person pulls it at both ends that it creates a loud bang. Usually, it is done before eating but can also be done afterward.

It has a crown made of paper with various little knick-knacks inside. And there are also instances of corny jokes in a slip of paper inside the crackers.

According to Luke Ward of The Fact Site, a Christmas cracker often contains a paper hat, a really bad joke, and a small gift. The quality of the items in the cracker depends on how much you pay for the cracker. Whilst most people would have received a whistle, pencil sharpener, or tape measure, there’s some out there that offer jewelry, expensive gadgets & perfume.

History of Christmas Crackers

Christmas crackers were invented in 1846 by the British confectioner, Thomas Smith. Whilst on a trip to Paris, he stumbled upon a bonbon, which for those of you that don’t know. It is basically a sugar almond wrapped up in tissue paper, with a twist on either side of the bon-bon.

Thomas thought the idea could be a festive way of enjoying sweets and produced other candy wrapped similarly, for the lead up to Christmas. Thomas’ bonbons was a bestseller at Christmas, which lead to his next idea.

These Christmas bonbons were mainly bought by men for their partner to unwrap, so in the early 1850’s, Thomas came up with the idea of including romantic poems wrapped around the candy.

In 1860, Thomas was inspired by the crackling of the logs in his fireplace, and decided his crackers needed a bang! He added two strips of chemically impregnated paper, which makes a loud noise on being pulled apart, which is still used today.

Originally, these were called cosaques but were almost instantly referred to as crackers, due to the cracking sound when pulling. Like any good idea, it was soon copied by other businesses, which meant for Thomas’ crackers to keep selling, he would have had to make them more original. So he decided to replace the bonbon with a surprise gift.

Tom Smith Crackers is still one of the largest manufacturers of crackers in the world, and are pulled by thousands of people around the world, including the Royal family! His cracker company is now owned by Brite Sparks. In the early 1990s, Thomas’ son, Walter, took over the business and introduced the paper hat to keep battling against the other cracker rivals.  

Environmental Impact of Christmas Crackers

But as heartwarming and festive Christmas crackers are, they have huge environmental impacts – particularly on the waste they produce. According to Business Waste LTD, most Christmas Crackers treats are single-use plastics. And they ultimately end up in landfills or incinerated. After Christmas dinners, over 100 million Christmas crackers get binned.

Business Waste LTD representative Mark Hall, said, “When you think what goes into a Christmas cracker – the plastic toy, the snap, the shiny paper hat, the ribbons – it’s all wasted. And that’s before you factor in the fact that millions upon millions of these things are shipped halfway across the world from China.”

If you really look at the contents of most Christmas crackers sold in the market, you will cringe at the huge quantity of waste involved in this festive tradition. Glittery crackers are popular but very dangerous for the environment because they are covered in microplastics. While you can recycle the outer cardboard portions of Christmas crackers, the treats and contents inside are generally considered non-recyclable.

But we should not despair because as with any activity, you can find ways to reduce waste in Christmas crackers.

Sustainable Christmas Crackers

Before buying Christmas Crackers for your Christmas family dinners, be guided by these questions, as reccomended by Friends of the Earth and VoucherCodes:

  • Check if the packaging contains an unnecessary plastic window.
  • Check your local council’s recycling guidelines.
  • Is the packaging made of recycled material?
  • Does the packaging have a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on it? This means that the material is sourced from a forest that meets the required management practices and forest stewardship standards for sustainability.
  • Are the toys multi-use or are they going to be thrown away after the meal?

Focus on finding plastic-free and reusable Christmas crackers.

Plastic-free crackers

First, choose paper crackers instead of glittery crackers. Glitter is not good for the environment, even the eco-friendly variants.

Many companies like “Keep This Cracker” sell the outer sleeves of Christmas crackers. You can fill them yourself with knick-knacks and snacks your loved ones will love. These reusable crackers can be washed then reused year after year – which essentially helps you reduce Christmas waste.

Aside from reusable Christmas crackers, there are also plastic-free crackers such as those sold by John Lewis, Waitrose, LoveTiki, Meri Meri, Nancy and Betty, Selfridges, and Notonthehighstreet.

Make your own Christmas crackers

Get creative with what you have on hand or you can also get DIY kits in the market. One fine tutorial in DIY Christmas Crackers is this guide by Thoroughly Modern Grandma. Just make sure to put usable or worthwhile items inside the crackers. Think snacks, handmade jewelry, and other useful stuff.


Sometimes Christmas crackers are also used in decorating in a Christmas tree as ornaments and in other places in the home where it can add additional aesthetic value. Having Christmas crackers in celebrating the holiday season is really exciting and at the same time interesting. Not only because it is already a tradition, but because these crackers give joy and entertainment amid talking and having fun with the family in the Christmas dinner. This helps the family grow closer in gatherings.

Going back to the titular question on whether we should ditch the tradition of Christmas crackers tradition, the answer is no. What we should ditch is the culture of waste involved in most Christmas crackers and other parts of human activities. It is such a highlight of the Christmas dinner. Rather than banning this tradition altogether, we should switch to sustainable options. We should go for plastic-free and reusable Christmas crackers. We can buy them or make our own. DIYing them can be a Christmas gift on its own because it is a labor of love to do.

When it comes to giving in the season of Christmas, we do not weigh how much, how big, or how good a thing that someone has given us. We appreciate it and value it because we do not know how did that someone came up with a gift just for us and to make us happy in this holiday season. So when it comes to receiving gifts, Christmas crackers, or anything that someone will give us we should appreciate it and value it.

And most importantly, we should focus on giving gifts that people will appreciate. Give reusables and zero waste items so our loved ones won’t be burdened with the hassle of dealing with unnecessary waste. Lastly, we should take this time to give the gift of sustainable consumerism to Mother Earth.

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