The story of the Christmas cracker is really a testament to one man's ingenuity and determination. Tom Smith was a confectioner's apprentice in London in the early 19th century. On a trip to Paris in 1840, he admired the French sugared almond bon-bons, wrapped in coloured tissue paper, and decided to introduce them in London. These bon-bons were popular, but not quite as Smith had hoped.
For seven years he worked to develop the bon-bon into something more exciting, but it was not until he sat one evening in front of his fireplace that his great idea came to him. Watching the logs crackle, he imagined a bon-bon with a pop. He made a coloured paper wrapper and put in it another strip of paper impregnated with chemicals which, when rubbed, created enough friction to produce a noise. He knew that bangs excited children (and were said to frighten evil spirits) - and the mottoes and poems he inserted inside the crackers amused adults.
The new product was initially marketed as the Cosaque, but “cracker" soon became the commonly used name, as rival varieties were introduced to the market. The other elements of the modern cracker, the gifts, paper hats and varied designs, were all introduced by Tom Smith's son, Walter Smith, as ways of distinguishing the company from the many copycat cracker manufacturers which had suddenly sprung up.
One of the nicest stories told by the staff of Tom Smith is that of the gentleman who sent a diamond ring and a ten-shilling note, with a letter requesting that a special cracker be made with the ring inside, as a proposal to his ladylove. Sadly, the gentleman did not remember to include his address! Maybe the engagement never happened, because he did not get back in touch with Smiths, and the ring, together with the money and the letter are still kept by Smiths in their archives.
Christmas for me always begins with buying the Bon Bons for the Christmas table - the tree can be up the presents can be bought but it just isn't Christmas until I have those Bon Bons.
The bon bons for me "set the scene" - this is when the present wrapping, table setting colour scheme is decided and announced to the family ( and yes they do think I am nuts - but as he song says "A little bit crazy is alright").
I have been known to buy Bon Bons and then see some I like better and buy them and change the theme for the year....resulting in a storeroom that may or may not hold a stash of Bon Bons from "Christmas past".
I looked this year - well I opened the door of the storeroom and none jumped out at me so I bought these.....
And because they aren't quite the Lime and White/Silver I have in mind I am adding this to them with name tags.
More Christmas Trivia tomorrow