How Are Crackers Made?

Cracker Elements

So, you’ve landed here and want to know about how crackers are made.  You asked, so let’s get deep and meaningful about crackers…

The best place to start is with what a cracker actually consists of.  A cracker is made of six different components.  These are:

  1. The cracker board or base
  2. The snap
  3. The joke
  4. The hat
  5. The gift
  6. The tie or ribbon
Cracker Boards

    The starting point for every cracker is, very obviously, the cracker board itself.  You would have no cracker without it!  

    So, what is the cracker 'board' made from?  Historically crackers would be made from any decorative paper that was available, then moving to crepe paper, which was a nightmare to pull as it is so stretchy and latterly to foiled papers. These were all made over a cardboard tube and tied at each end with ribbon or string.

    In less informed times, with no eye on the environment, we all moved to heavily foiled and glittered crackers, which all went straight to landfill after use.  Now that we are far more aware of our environment, more and more crackers are being made from recyclable board and, sometimes, recycled board.  We are proud that all of our cracker kits and ready-made crackers are now made from recyclable board.

    We hope that you love our huge range of exclusive printed cracker boards, which are not just for Christmas.  Yes, we have our best-selling Nordic gonk, watercolour berries, Christmas character and other popular seasonal designs, but we also have a great range for other occasions too.  Wedding crackers are becoming more and more popular, together with other celebrations and events, such as birthdays, baby showers, Easter and anniversaries.

    We also offer a huge range of unique, premium quality plain coloured boards, in brights, pastels, metallics and neons.  They are available as either single colour packs or our fabulous colour blends, which are designed to coordinate or clash!

    Plain and Patterned Crackers

    Cracker Snaps

      Once you've chosen a cracker board, the cracker snap is then added inside the barrel.  It’s a paper strip with a “gunpowder” effect built into the middle of it.  It is secured inside the cracker handles with a glue or other adhesive.  We always use either a hot glue gun or a good quality clear sticky tape.

      The snap is secured for two reasons.  The first is to stop it falling out before the cracker even gets to the table…  The second reason is so that it does actually pull.  If you can imagine a cracker with an unattached snap in it, then when you pull it, one person holds their handle more tightly than the other, they will just pull the snap completely out of the other persons hand, without it banging and Christmas is completely ruined for everyone involved!  Perhaps it isn’t quite that serious, but this is why it is secured to the inside of both handles, ensuring that it pulls and snaps in the middle, as the cracker tears apart, to create the bang.

      All of our kits and ready made crackers do contain snaps.

      Cracker Jokes

        Inside the cracker is the joke and hat.   What can we say about cracker jokes?  We know that sometimes they are replaced with fascinating (not!) facts, charades (oh no!) or quiz questions (always obscure and often out of date!) but we really do all expect them to contain a joke that we can groan at when it’s read. 

        Surely, cracker jokes aren’t meant to be funny, are they?  Aren’t they are just meant to be bad?  Really bad, ideally!  They are akin to a true Dad joke but probably shorter and more corny…  Truth be told, the same jokes have been churned for years but this is part of the fun of a cracker, with just the odd new joke thrown in!

        What could you expect from a cracker joke? Here's a few of our groan-worthy favourites:

        1. What lays at the bottom of the sea and shakes?
          A. A nervous wreck!
        2. What do you call a deer with no eyes?
          A. No idea!
        3. What’s brown and sticky?
          A. A stick!
        4. Why do you put candles on top of a birthday cake?
          A. Because they won’t go on the bottom!

        Cracker Hats

        What can we say about paper cracker hats?

        As we all know, generally they are absolute rubbish!  Assuming they are strong enough not to rip as you open them, then they either slip down over your eyes when you put them on, or they are balanced precariously on top of your hair-do and keep falling off! 

        Is that part of the fun of cracker hats?  Maybe, but probably not… 

        Many cracker hats are not recyclable, or their recyclability is unclear, which is really not acceptable today, as they all just end up in landfill. 

        We have created our own fully recyclable cracker hats.  These exclusive hats are adjustable and fit heads of all sizes – big or little, young or old, big hair or no hair…  All our cracker kits contain these adjustable cracker hats.

        Cracker Gifts

        There’s nothing to say about the cracker gift that hasn’t already been said! 

        We know that we are living in more informed times and useless pieces of plastic have no place in our lives, let alone Christmas crackers.  Plastic combs, too small even for dolls, little plastic characters, jumping frogs (you remember them?) or a moustache – we all know that the time has passed for these and what the impact the production and disposal of these are having on our environment. 

        We believe that cracker gifts should be just like any other gift that you give, something thoughtful that people would want, keep and use.  Not just more Christmas detritus for the wheelie bin.

        We've built our range of quality cracker fillers to cover a range of themes, recipients and budgets. Whether it's a luxury pen, miniature nail files, a tin of mints or a little ornament the recipient will be able to get some use out of their gift, rather than throw it in the bin the following day!

        Cracker Fillers

        So, whatever the gift is, who keeps it when the cracker is pulled?  That largely depends on whether you have used gifts that will be suitable for everyone or if you have chosen gifts especially for certain people.  If you have generic gifts, then it’s normally a free for all after the crackers are pulled – if everyone gets a gift, then all is fine.  If not, you need to start crawling around the floor and rummaging through the sprouts to find the missing gift!

        However, if you have made the extra effort and chosen a gift for everyone individually, then you will want to make sure that the right person received the right gift. 

        We tend to write the initials of the recipient lightly inside the cracker handle when we make them, so that, when we have laid the table, we know which cracker to put where.  Even when you do this though, after the crackers are pulled you will still end up with gifts all over the table and floor.  Our tip here is to wrap each one in a little piece of tissue paper or coordinating wrap, then write the name on the outside.  This will be an extra little gift to open but, more importantly, will mean that everyone receives the gift meant for them.  Not all dads want a pair of tweezers, even if they really do need them…

        Cracker Ties

        What will you tie your home-made crackers with?

        Maybe a gorgeous satin or a luxurious organza ribbon? These will look amazing if you are an expert bow maker…  However, most of us aren’t great at this and end up with just a huge untidy bow or opt for a simple knot.

        Over recent years, more and more crackers are tied with raffia or natural twines and jutes as they are much more environmentally friendly.  This is great for the environment and absolutely applaudable, but you can’t get away from the luxurious look that a ribbon will give you.

        On one of our standard crackers, you would need a 15mm satin ribbon or a 25mm organza ribbon to make the perfect bow, as you will see in many of our pictures.   On one of our large crackers, we would use a 23mm satin ribbon or a 35-40mm organza ribbon. You can shop our range of ties for crackers here.

        We tend to allow 45cm for a standard cracker bow and 60cm for a bow on a large cracker.  You will have a little bit of wastage on this, but it makes tying them a whole lot easier…

        Big Bow Crackers


        Why not try a double or triple bow by layering up your ribbon before bowing it.  Our top tip here, is to make your bow onto a pipe cleaner and then tie the pipe cleaner to the cracker.  Not only does this make assembly easier and you get a neater finish, but after the cracker is pulled and you are clearing away the rubbish to the recycling bin, you can remove the bows and use them again – and again – and again!  We have used the same black, red and white bows every year, multiple times each year and on different crackers every time. 

        This is assuming, of course, that your guests haven’t purloined them before you get to them…

        Cracker Snaps

        So, how does a cracker snap work?

        Do you want the simple version or the chemist’s version?

        Let’s do the non-technical bit first…  These are made up of two strips of card, which are overlapping slightly and taped together.  Under the tape on one end there is a small amount of and “explosive” type substance, which is either silver fulminate or silver nitrate.  The other end, so that they meet under the tape, is coated in a fine sandpaper material.

        Then, when the cracker is pulled and these two sections are rubbed against each other, under the tape, the rough texture creates a friction against the silver fulminate or nitrate, which creates the bang or snap noise that we are all familiar with.

        The History

          So, we are told that Tom Smith, who lived in London, invented crackers in 1847.

          He sold bon-bons (sweets) in wrappers and sales were dropping, so he had to become more creative – sounds like a modern day dilemma for business owners too…

          One of his ideas was to add a love message into the wrapped sweets, which proved popular.

          Tom Smith

          It’s said that the bang element was added after he heard the snap and crackle (no pop!) of a log he had added to the fire.  Because of this, he had to make the sweet wrapper bigger and the cracker was born.

          Eventually, over time, the bon-bons were dropped and replaced with little gifts, perhaps a trinket or costume jewellery – it was much later that the innocuous plastic tat was added!  Plastic lipstick anyone?  You must want a plastic paper clip, surely…

          Tom Smith’s son, Walter, added the paper hat, which remained largely unchanged until we created the adjustable paper hat to fit heads and hair-dos of all shapes and sizes.

          Ease of Making our Crackers

          Our cracker kits are designed to be super easy to make. 

          The boards are pre-cut, we just recommend that you gently fold them along the creases around the neck of the cracker, as this gives you a neater finish.

          You are then ready to tape or hot-glue your snaps in.

          After this, you will just roll the crackers, and slot them together.   No glue is needed here, they all just lock together.

          We tend to leave one handle incomplete, or not slotted together.   This makes it a lot easier to add your hat, filler and gift, then slotting it together afterwards.

          Then add the bows.  You might like to add the bows to the end you sealed, before you add your fillers, so that they don’t all fall out when you try to tie the other end.

          You’re ready to go.

          See our cracker making instructions here.

          Snapless Crackers

          We know that cracker snaps can cause some problems, perhaps for nervous pets, where someone has autism and kids who hat the bangs.

          All of our kits have the snaps loose in the kit, ready to attach, so the very obvious and easy solution to fix these problems is to just leave out the snaps, which is what many, many of our customers do every year.  Have you ever pulled a cracker where the snap didn’t actually bang?  If you have good quality crackers, which ours are, you may not even notice of there were no snaps, as the ripping of the cracker makes a fairly loud, albeit more natural, noise of its own.

          This works even better if you all pull your crackers together, crossed arms and 1, 2, 3, pull…   The noise of the ripping crackers is loud enough without any need for a snap, where the snap is of concern to you.

          It’s not as black and white as snaps or no snaps.  Why not replace the snap with an alternative to replace the bang with something else? 

          Items that we know our customer have used, some are environmentally friendly, include:

          • Confetti, ready-made or home made
          • Faux or dried leaves and petals
          • Feathers
          • Streamers
          • Loose, wrapped sweets
          • Lametta, which is long thin strands of tinsel material

          There are so many options, all of which give that extra bit of fun when the cracker is pulled and helps to avoid people noticing that there was no snap.

          Whatever you add, you just need to make sure that it’s bigger than the hole in the end of the cracker, which tends to be around 1cm to 1.5cm, otherwise it will all fall out!