Introduction: Party Crackers

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Step by step instructions for making your own crackers that pop!

Party crackers are a British tradition around Christmas, but really should be used to celebrate any event!  Here are easy instructions so you can make your own and fill them with great loot - both traditional and customized to fit your needs.

I first learned about Christmas crackers during my visit to England last December, and have been obsessed with spreading their word ever since.  As you'll learn along the way of this story, there are special traditions and techniques involved in both the making and popping of these crackers that  must be observed.  But as for the toys you choose to fill them with, let your imagination go wild!

Step 1: Round Up

To make the crackers, you'll need:
  • Optional: Pre-printed die cut Christmas Cracker tubes  or:
  • Cardboard tubes (toilet paper tubes are perfect, but paper towel tubes can be cut to size)
  • Double sided tape
  • Heavy clear packing tape or hot glue
  • Scissors or X-acto knife
  • Paper to cover the crackers
  • Ribbon to tie off the crackers
  • Tissue paper to make crowns
  • Assorted Toys & Party Favors suited to the receivers / theme of the party
  • Jokes
  • Also optional: the cracker snaps that make it pop!  You can salvage them from unused crackers, or buy them at a place like this. I did try to come up with some alternate solutions, but in the end, went with the original.  They're really not necessary, as in all the excitement, you hardly hear the snap anyway.

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Step 2: Jokes

Party cracker jokes are classic and usually terrible.
There are plenty of websites to help you choose your favorite.  Not all of them translate from British into American so well, so choose which ones are appropriate for your audience.

Print them out or hand-write them and cut them down into fortune-cookie-size slips.

Step 3: Paper Crowns

The paper crown is how you know you're at a party.

When we were traveling through England last Christmas season, I saw them on everyone's heads in restaurants.  The only time I'd seen them before was at my brother's 7th birthday party or something, and I thought it was REALLY coincidental that everyone was celebrating a birthday that week!

Cut to me making that observation aloud and learning about "Holiday Do's" and "Christmas Crackers."  We'll go into further ways I embarrassed myself in this arena later.

I kept one of the crowns from my cracker and copied it thusly:
  • Cut a strip of tissue paper 3 1/2" x 24"  (9cm x 60cm)
  • Lay a piece of double sided tape along one of the short ends, and tape short edges together
  • Fold in half and crease along folded edge
  • Fold in half again and crease along edge
  • Repeat a third time
  • Cut one edge at an angle (I made my angle a little roundy at each point)
  • Open to reveal your new awesome crown
Now repeat for as many poppers as you plan on making, plus a couple extra in case they rip.

Step 4: Roll Tubes

Now it's time to prepare the tubes for assembly.

The easiest way to do this is gather up a bunch of empty toilet paper tubes.  I measured them to know how big a sheet of wrapping paper I would need. 
  • The tubes I had measured 4 1/2" x 1 1/2" (~ 11 1/2cm x 4 cm), so I cut my paper to 12" x 6" (~ 30.5cm x 15cm)
  • Flip the paper over so the wrong side is facing up (I was using double-sided paper)
  • Add a strip of double-sided tape to the full length of the tube.
  • Center the tube in the middle of the paper.
  • Press taped edge of tube down along paper.
  • Align two other tubes on each end of the center tube to assist in perfect rolling
  • Lay a piece of double-sided tape along the entire opposite edge of the paper
  • (opt: place a cracker snap between the paper and the tube as you roll)
  • Roll the tubes and seal to other side of paper where tape is

Step 5: Fill Crackers

First we'll close one end of the cracker.  Then we'll stuff it with goodies and tie off the other end!
  • Slide one of the guiding roller tubes out about the same width of the tube (1 1/2" / ~4cm) 
  • Use your fingers to crease the paper in the center of this space
  • Align a 12" (30cm) strip of ribbon underneath this gap and wrap around paper
  • Wrap ribbon around paper a few times, pulling tightly to close the end of the tube
  • Using heavy duty clear packing tape or hot glue, adhere the end of the snap to the paper so it won't come loose when pulling them apart
Fill the other end with goodies before removing the other rolling-assist tube, and repeat these steps.

Step 6: Cracker Etiquette and the Continuing Story of Sarah Embarrassing Herself. . .

The proper etiquette when faced with a party cracker is to grab one end of it, and share the other end with the person of your choice.  Alternatively, if seated at a table, everyone can cross arms and pop them all at once.

On no account should one grab past the ribbon as this is very bad behavior. This is cheating and nobody will ever choose you again.

Whatever the situation, you do not just pull both of the ends yourself.

In my defense, I really wanted to see what was inside.  I didn't realize it was a contest.

Whoever wins the pull ends up with the tube in their hand and all the spoils within.  The loser ends up with a handful of paper and a major sense of disappointment. 

However, it has been known in polite society that, the winner will offer the contents to the loser IF the loser was the instigator of the cracker pull

Watch the following series of photos to see how this played out between Matt and Ed!

Step 7: Enjoy Your New Riches

Don your crown and enjoy your findings.

Beware though, sad losers may try to steal your loot!

But fear not, this story has a happy ending! Follow the story in pictures to see Matt's triumph.

Step 8:

Crackers can be placed around the dinner table to be enjoyed before or after a meal.  They are also often placed in a Christmas tree and stockings.  You'll get so hooked on these, that you'll want to stash them everywhere and bring them out for every occasion! 

You might be so proud of your personalized creations that you want to share them every time you have visitors.  I highly recommend this.

As you can see, Clicquot's already picked out hers.  Now she just has to wait until the big day to open them! 

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