What’s the deal with Christmas bon-bons?
Indeed. This question, while light on words, says so much about Christmas and the traditions we celebrate.
What is the deal with bonbons? Or crackers? Call them what you will.
Actually don’t. They’ve been crackers since the mid-1800s. So unless you are 160 years old, you should be calling them crackers. Otherwise, it would be like me describing my height in the imperial measures that ended before I was born.
Which is what I do.
Christmas crackers – which were originally called Bon-Bons after the French sweets – were invented by a man keen to make his name in history.
Back in 1847, young Tom Smith, London purveyor of sweets did what any savvy business owner faced with flagging sales does, creates a dodgy tradition that we still blindly and unquestioning follow.
Tom took the idea from France where a sugar coated almond would be wrapped with a love message and tied with a ribbon at either end.
Some years later, while watching his fireplace, deep in a meditative entrepreneurial state, Tom heard the crackling of fire and was inspired to add the crack to the crackers. At this stage, he called them “Cosaques”, after the Cossacks who sound like a lively old bunch of soldiers who liked to go around firing their weapons for fun.
But after a short while, people couldn’t be arsed remembering that so reverted to calling them “crackers”.
The next generation built on Tom’s work and son Walter hit on the fantastic idea of making us all look like dickheads by including paper crowns. Because nothing says fun like a paper hat. (Pass me the wine would you? Thanks).
Shocking news for those of us who have been bearing the indignities of ill-fitting paper crowns for our whole lives, apparently there are very many people in very many countries managing to have Christmas celebrations successfully without bon-bons, cosaques, crackers or their dodgy contents.
Seems it’s a Commonwealth thing.
In the birthplace of the Commonwealth, you can pay £210 for a single Cracker at Harrods.
That trifling sum gets you no hat and no joke, just a serious cashed-up gift like sterling silver cufflinks or bracelets.
To put this in perspective, £210 is slightly less than the £214 the average retail worker in the UK makes for a week’s work.
So if the staff member who serves you at Harrods works hard, it will only take them 6 weeks of not eating or paying rent to afford 6 of these crackers for their own family dinner.
The British royals who love a poorly dressed tradition have been using Tom Smith Crackers
for 110 years. I imagine they don’t pay for them, but $90 will get you 8 delivered to your home.
A better idea is to buy the cheapest ones you can find and just being resigned to the fact that they will be crappy. Crappy toys, crappy jokes, crappy hats.
This is a selection of crap from crackers from one family Christmas.
The only slightly useful thing is the comb and I have put a five cent piece there to show you how useful it’s going to be on actual hair.
Exciting news though, this cheap stuff will still be around in 27,000 years, choking the wildlife and filling our oceans.
I suggest going the DIY route this year.
Stockpile toilet rolls and stuff them with some things that might genuinely help your party.
The cracking part is the most difficult, but since it is usually a dud anyway, just encourage your guests to shout “Bang” as they pull it apart. Or, agree on a swear word you can all use instead.
Inside, instead of a joke, why not include a filthy limerick? Or perhaps a targeted piece of advice for each family member?
Then, they toys. Stick to the P’s – pharmaceuticals, plugs (ear), prophylactics, pests (live wasps, while tricky to wrangle, are perfect for a real Christmas surprise) or just a paperclip – then watch your family fight over the ear-plugs as they real that is the real prize this early on Christmas Day.
And no one wants the hat, so save the planet and just leave it out.