What are Christmas crackers? They’re a British tradition. Just about everyone has a cracker with their Christmas meal.

And what’s inside a Christmas cracker? Watch us pull a cracker and we’ll show you. You’ll also learn some Christmas cracker vocabulary along the way.

There are always three things in a cracker – a paper hat, a joke and a novelty.

We’ll show you hats that don’t fit, corny cracker jokes with puns that will make you groan and some typical Christmas cracker novelties.

You’ll learn the history of Christmas crackers and lots of vocabulary like puns, corny and fickle.

Click here to see another video about Christmas traditions. 

What’s inside a Christmas Cracker?

Do you know what this is?
Hi everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
We’re going to tell you about a British tradition today.
And you’re going to learn lots of vocabulary along the way.
This is a British Christmas cracker and it’s an important part of a British Christmas dinner.
They’re not a tradition in the US, though Vicki’s found some in the stores here.
Yes. But I never know if I’ll be able to find them here so I get them delivered from England, just to be sure we’ll have them.
She orders them every year.
They’re very pretty. Sometimes we put them on the Christmas tree as decorations, but when we’re having our Christmas meal everyone gets a cracker.
Cracker means something different in American English.
What’s that?
Well, it’s something you eat. This is a cracker.
We call them crackers in British English too.
And we also have firecrackers They’re fireworks that go bang!
We usually call them bangers. But I think the explosion is how crackers got their name.
In 1847 there was a confectioner in London called Tom Smith. A confectioner is someone who makes cakes and sweets.
She means candy.
He introduced London to French bon-bons, sweets wrapped in paper and tied with a twist. And they were very popular. He had competition though, so to increase sales he added a motto – a little piece of paper with a message.
Like you find inside a Chinese fortune cookies.
Then later, Tom Smith had another idea. He took out the sweet and put a gift inside instead.
It was a very good idea.
And then in 1860 he added an explosion and the cracker was born!

Oh, so that piece of card had some chemicals on it.
Yeah. There’s one inside every cracker. A cracker is just a hollow cardboard tube.
Can you pull a cracker on your own?
No, you have to pull it with someone else. One person holds one end and the other person holds the other, and we tug at the same time. To tug means to pull hard.
One, two, three!
When you pull a cracker, one person always wins, and you won.
Yes, I won this one. Now there are always the same things inside a cracker. There’s always a hat.
A paper hat, huh?
Uhuh. It’s like a crown. And you wear them when you’re eating your Christmas dinner. Like this. They’re always too big for you. They always gradually go down like this.
Yeah. They are always too big for me.
They fall off a lot of people’s heads. They’re average size and they don’t fit anyone.
And there’s always a joke inside, right?
Yes, yes, yes. OK. Hang on. There’s a joke here. What delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Err, Err. Shark-Claus?
Well think about… think about the sharks.
Err, Err. Tooth-Claus? I give up. What?
Oh right, of course. I’ve got another one here. What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney?
The jokes are often puns. A pun is a joke that’s a play on words.
Perhaps there’s a word that has two different meanings. Or perhaps there are two different words that sound the same.
Like Santa Claus – claustrophobia.
Claustrophobia is a fear of being in very small spaces.
Like a chimney.
Exactly. Erm. I’ve got some more. OK, what do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
Err. A… a Christmas cracker. A Christmas quacker.
I got it. I almost never get them.
I know but you’ve got better over the years.
Cracker jokes are often corny jokes, so old jokes you’ve heard before.
They’re the sort of jokes where you might not laugh. You might groan instead.
A groan is a long deep sound you make when you’re in pain.
And you can groan with pleasure too. Let’s have another one.
What did Adam say the day before Christmas.
OK. We call the day before Christmas Eve – Christmas Eve. So he said ‘It’s Christmas Eve!’
Urgh! That’s terrible!
What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?
A bell with a skunk.
A bell skunk.
And your clue is it’s a popular Christmas tune.
Errr jingle smells.
Jingle smells!
I got it!
Listen. If you have any good jokes for us everyone, please leave them for us in the comments. And we can share them perhaps in a video.
They don’t have to be about Christmas.
And there’s always a novelty inside – so some kind of small object. This came flying out of the cracker.
Oh well this one is a top. You spin it.
So I’ve got some things here that I saved.
Where did you get these?
I kept them from last year’s Christmas dinner.
You kept them?
Yes. I knew I wanted to make a video about them. They’re very typical novelties. So we often find toys in the Christmas cracker. There you are.
Oh. A deck of cards.
And what about these. I don’t know if you can see them. They’re marbles and they’re little glass balls that you can play with. Did you play with marbles when you were a child?
I did. We played with marbles when I was a kid and you would always shoot them out and try to hit the other kids’ marbles.
That’s right, and if you hit the other one’s marbles, you could win their marble.
That’s right.
I used to play with my brothers and I never had any marbles left at the end of it.
I thought you lost your marbles a long time ago.
What? To lose your marbles means to go crazy. OK. If you’re hot at the dinner table you can have a fan to cool yourself down.
I bet you can use it to cool the turkey.
If your dinner’s too hot.
The novelties are normally very cheap so they’re not something you keep.
And here’s another one that’s very common. There’s a little jigsaw puzzle here. You see. You’ve got all the pieces. So the children can sit at the dinner table and they can do the jigsaw puzzle if they start to get bored.
Sometimes I’ve seen expensive crackers with expensive novelties, like silver penknives or gold jewelry but I don’t want them.
You don’t want nice gifts?
No, I want games you can play – novelties that are fun for the kids.
So don’t spend your money on expensive crackers.
This is my favourite. It’s actually a fish. It’s red and it’s like a piece of cellophane. And what you have to do is put it on your hand and we see what happens. And then according to what happens I know what you’re lik, you see. This is a fortune teller fish.
Oh, the tail’s going up. OK, the tail…
Look it twisted together. Both ends. Look at that.
OK, a moving tail means you’re independent.
But if the head moves as well, it means you’re jealous.
Uhuh. Is there something you want to tell me?
No. And if it’s both… hang on. Oh. And if it’s both then it means you’re in love.
It’s both. Enough. Enough.
Do you want me to try it?
Oh Jay. The sides have curled in.
Oh curling sides means you’re fickle.
Fickle! Fickle means I can’t be trusted. I keep changing my mind. I’m not reliable.
The thing about Christmas crackers is they solve a problem.
What’s that?
Christmas dinner is a long meal and you’ve got adults and children and sometimes the kids get bored. But the jokes and novelties keep them amused.
They’re things to play with.
So that’s it. Now you know about Christmas crackers.
Do you have anything similar in your country?
And how do you keep the kids amused when you’re having a big family meal?
OK, we should wrap this up.
Yeah. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
See you all next Friday everyone. Bye-bye.



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