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Cracking open the history behind Christmas crackers

The glittery cardboard novelty contains a surprise
Posted: 5:40 PM, Dec 20, 2017
Updated: 2017-12-20 18:40:43-05

Have you ever heard of a Christmas cracker? Many families have, and many families have not. I had never heard of it until I spent my first Christmas with my husband's family, and they popped the Christmas crackers open on Christmas Eve.

Inside, you will find a small paper crown, a toy or trinket and a "dad joke" comic.

For those who have never heard of the tradition, here is a look at how Christmas crackers became popular.

According to several British newspapers, Christmas crackers are a tradition celebrated in Britain since the 1800s. It has expanded to Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa -- along with some families celebrating it in America.

Legend has it, the first Christmas crackers were made by a sweet maker named Tom Smith. He had seen the French 'bon bon' sweets, all wrapped in pretty paper, and he took the idea back to London. He wanted to make his different and was inspired to put it in a log-shaped tube that "cracked" when you opened it.

Legend also says that one night while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half.  Inside the Christmas cracker, he put a small toy or trinket and a riddle or small motto. 

Through the years the goodies found inside the Christmas cracker have changed. According to British newspaper The Sun, it wasn't until the early 1900s that the paper crown was added and the motto was replaced with the biggest "dad jokes" you will usually hear.

Here are just some of the types of jokes found inside:

What do you call a bunch of chess players bragging about their games in a hotel lobby?
Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.

Why does Santa have three gardens?
So he can 'ho ho ho'!

How does good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?
Deep pan, crisp and even.

What did the sea Say to Santa?
Nothing! It just waved!

How did Scrooge win the football game?
The ghost of Christmas passed.

What did Adam say to his wife the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas, Eve.

Why did Santa’s helper see the doctor?
Because he had a low “elf” esteem.

Why does Santa go down the chimney on Christmas Eve?
Because it 'soots' him!

The corniness of the jokes is part of what makes the Christmas crackers a fun party piece to enjoy.

But before you pack up a bag full of Christmas crackers to take home, you might want to double check your airline's rules. These airlines have banned Christmas crackers on their flights. Failure to comply could result in delays or luggage not being loaded.

Air France                       KLM
Air India                          Norwegian Airlines
Air New Zealand             RyanAir
American Airlines           SAS Scandinavian
Cathay Pacific                Singapore Airlines
Delta                               South African Airlines
Emirates                         United Airlines
Etihad                             WestJet
Icelandair                        Wow