Across the UK on Christmas Day, families can be found sitting around their dining tables enjoying a traditional lunch of roast turkey with all the trimmings.
And all, regardless of age, will be wearing coloured paper hats. It is rumoured that even the Queen wears her paper hat over lunch.
So why this quaint tradition? Where do these paper hats come from? The answer is the Christmas Cracker.
A Christmas Cracker is a cardboard paper tube, wrapped in brightly coloured paper and twisted at both ends. There is a banger inside the cracker, two strips of chemically impregnated paper that react with friction so that when the cracker is pulled apart by two people, the cracker makes a bang.
The mastermind behind the Christmas cracker was a London sweetshop owner called Tom Smith. In 1847, after spotting French bonbons wrapped in paper with a twist at each end, he started selling similar sweets with a “love motto” inside.
They were so popular as a Christmas novelty that Tom made them bigger and included a trinket. But the real flash of inspiration came when he poked the fire and a log exploded with a sharp CRACK! That gave him the idea for a package that went off with a bang.
He launched his “Bangs of Expectation” with top-of-the range gifts such as jewellery, ivory carvings, perfume and miniature dolls. By 1900 he was selling 13 million a year.
But we can’t blame Tom for the corny jokes and paper hats. They came later.
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