Here’s a joke that will only get a laugh in one context: around the Christmas dinner table:
Q: What disease can you catch from putting up too many Christmas decorations?
Many of us can’t imagine Christmas without a few lame jokes going around, brought to the table inside the Christmas cracker. Christmas dinner in many parts of the western world – the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland would not be the same without them (they’re also known as bonbons in some parts of the world). Though not celebrated in North America, crackers are also part of Russian New Years’ Eve celebrations.
The origins of the tradition date back to 1847, when Thomas J Smith (an English sweet manufacturer) visited Paris with his kids. While there, they discovered Parisian Bon-Bons, sweets twisted up in colourful paper. He liked the idea so much that he took it home, where, at the time, English sweets were still sold loose from the trays they were made in.
But after the novelty wore off, sales slumped, so Smith tried new ideas to add some spark to the bonbons. He put the sweets into larger packaging, adding jokes, love poems or mottos inside the papers (the original dad jokes, perhaps?), and next – inspired, they say, by the sound of a log on the fire – a mechanism with a pinch of gunpowder to give it a bit of a bang when pulled apart.
The bonbons got more elaborate over the years, with a small gift or trinket appearing inside. The tradition of a paper crown may come from part of the Twelfth Night, when a king or queen is crowned for the day.
These days, no Christmas dinner would be complete without a cheesy joke, a colourful hat and a little gift. Gifts range from your basic key-ring to lavish gifts like these crackers from high-end retailer Harrods – featuring a ‘humour booklet’, his and hers hats, and gifts as fancy as an mP3 player or crystal earrings! Most of us are however content with a colourful tissue-paper hat, mini card deck and a terrible pun – as long as the cracker goes off with a bang!
What is your favourite Christmas cracker joke?
Vivienne Egan writes for Baker Ross the Christmas crafts experts.