This year, I thought I’d reached the heights of Christmas crafting by making our own Christmas crackers. For most of my life, I’d been intrigued by this peculiar British Christmas delight, and I’d read many a story in which children pulled their crackers on Christmas day. But I’d never seen one, so when Michael’s (the crafts store) had a little project sheet on how to make them myself, I couldn’t resist. I set Neil and Kelly to drawing myriad little stiff pieces of paper, to which we glued slightly larger pieces of tissue paper. Then we rolled it together, stapled the project into a tube, and tied the ends closed (after tossing some candy into the tube.) We made dozens of them, passed them around and put them under our Christmas tree. I was so thrilled I’d finally discovered that mystery of I’d read about so often in British children’s stories.
Peter, however, opened one with us, and asked the obvious question: shouldn’t it go pop? After all, in the books, they all go pop and explode. But my crackers didn’t, so I thought maybe it’s just the ripping noise. But we both knew that had to be wrong. The Brits are all about things that go bang, boom, and pop, preferably a flash of fire. Oh, I’m not just talking about guns: there’s fireworks, and bonfires, and chestnuts, and little British boys who stomp around going “boom, boom, boom!” America’s just a pale imitation of that crackling enthusiasm for shocking pops: to wit, we don’t have crackers.
So it was my luck to see real crackers the very same year I tried to make them myself. At the cookie exchange party we went to, the hostess had located a box of British Christmas crackers from Pier One. As an aside, she was a serious Christmas party hostess. While the rest of us think a gallon of eggnog and a decorated tree makes for a Christmas party, this hostess had hot cocoa, hot and cold cider, peppermint candy spoons that dissolved in hot liquid to add flavor, and carolling around the piano. And then, she pulled out these crackers and told us how they worked.
It was a completely different thing than my crackers. Real crackers are small round paper canisters, closed on two ends. When you pull them apart, an explosive inside really does go off with a big bang, blowing out a tiny little charm and a paper fortune. I have no idea how I could make something like that myself. But maybe next year, I’ll go to Pier One and see if I can find a package myself.