Louise Acott, Creative director, The Pepper Corporation

Louise Acott, Creative director, The Pepper Corporation

The great British Christmas cracker was invented in the 1840s by Tom Smith, a London pastry cook. He was inspired after visiting Paris and seeing the French custom of wrapping sugar almonds in a twist of coloured paper.

His first crackers included a romantic message he called 'kiss mottos'.

But the British were not comfortable with such displays of public affection and the cracker looked set to slip into oblivion.

Then the idea came to Tom in a blinding flash, or perhaps it was more of a half-hearted spark. Anyway, 'a banger' he thought, the very thing to put in my crackers to encourage spontaneous gaiety at social gatherings.

So he invented the banger, or friction cap strip, to give it its catchy title. Nowadays, no Christmas place setting is complete without cracker on a plate. Be it wrapped in a cloak of silver and gold or swathed in red crepe, this cylindrical temptress offers a joke, a gift, a hat and the chance of a bang - what more could you want at Christmas?

So paper hats off to Tom Smith. Without him we wouldn't have fortune-telling fish or soundless whistles, nor would we know what lies at the bottom of the sea shaking (A nervous wreck).

Yes this classic design of frivolity in a tube certainly has a lot to answer for.


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