CHRISTMAS dinner just would not be complete without the best Christmas crackers lining the glitter-strewn table – ready to be pulled, and the terrible jokes that lie within to be shared.
For a festive tradition that's been around since the 1800s, they're still going strong and are now a staple of any family Christmas dinner… dodgy paper crowns and all!
But, gone are the days when Christmas crackers used to contain a simple paper hat, joke and a rubbish plastic toy.
Now, Christmas crackers can be packed with all kinds of goodies, like jewellery and beauty gifts, or posh food and drink items.
Of course, you can still find Christmas crackers with the classics, like fun games and magic tricks – as well as DIY 'fill-your-own' versions, which allow you to put in whatever bits and bobs you like.
You'll also find eco-friendly crackers that are more sustainable, made without glitter or plastic so they can be recycled after the big reveal.
From cheap and cheerful to luxury, we've rounded up the best Christmas crackers to buy online now.
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Hallmark 100% Recyclable 6 Luxury Crackers
- Hallmark 100% Recyclable 6 Luxury Crackers, £12 from Amazon – buy here
These 100% recyclable Christmas crackers from Hallmark, available on Amazon, may be value for money at just over a tenner, but they're anything but basic.
They come in festive red and white designs and contain a hat, joke, festive activity and small gift like a bottle opener, nailclippers and a mini ruler.
The crackers are all style and substance, as they're completely plastic free (with metal gifts), and made with FSC certified cardboard – adorned with a paper twine detail which is all 100% recyclable.
The Little Green Cracker Company Holly Christmas Crackers
- Christmas Floral-Print Christmas Crackers Set of Six, £50 from Selfridges – buy here
These crackers will satisfy the even the most ardent eco-warrior – they're made from 100% recycled paper, although you wouldn't guess it from the beautifully classic floral pattern.
Maintaining the traditional theme, each cracker out of the set of six contains a hat, joke and gift, and is wrapped in red ribbon which could be reused for wrapping presents next Christmas.
Even the packaging is 100% recyclable, too. Sometimes the most satisfying move is to perfectly execute the classics to represent the needs of the present.
evelay Make Your Own Crackers
- evelay Make Your Own Christmas Cracker Kit, £11.99 from Amazon – buy here
Calling all creative types: instead of buying pre-made Christmas crackers this year, turn it into a fun crafty afternoon with the whole family and make your own.
These Christmas crackers include 12 hats, 12 cracker barrels and snaps, 12 jokes and 24 ribbon ties.
You can personalise each cracker by adding a special gift in each one like rolled up scratch cards, sweets, homemade gifts, make-up, or even a rolled-up pair of socks!
L'Occitane Festive Beauty Crackers Collection
- L'Occitane Festive Beauty Crackers, £22 from Fenwick – buy here
Fact: Christmas crackers with fantastic gifts – and lovely, colourful, packaging, too – are vastly superior to all other kinds of Christmas cracker.
Which is why we're obsessing over L'Occitane's Festive Crackers, which include goodies like mini cherry blossom shower gel, almond hand cream and shea butter shower oil.
There's four decadent crackers to choose from – but be warned, these aren't crackers you're going to want to share with just anyone…
Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly Crackers
- Piccadilly Crackers, £60 from Fortnum & Mason – buy here
Nothing says luxury Christmas crackers like Fortnum & Mason, and you'll find a selection of glorious, decadent designs to suit any festive table.
They're also filled with treats to delight any foodies: the Piccadilly Crackers each have a hat, joke and recipe from the Fortnum & Mason cookbook, as well as mini kitchen utensils like cookie cutters, whisks, nutmeg graters and more.
Plus, what's more is the cracker, outer box, hats and jokes are all recyclable, and you can reuse the ribbons and trimmings next Christmas.
Kraft Tree Christmas Crackers – Box of 6
- Kraft Tree Christmas Crackers – Box of 6, £10 from Paperchase – buy here
Cheap, cheerful, in a lovely festive print and still recyclable, these Christmas crackers from stationery-giant Paperchase are a lovely addition to any table.
Just because they're eco-friendly doesn't mean they're boring: they're completely customisable, allowing you to fill each cracker with your own surprise.
You could add stationery like rubbers, sharpeners or crayons for kids – or miniatures of booze for the adults. The choice is yours!
Nancy & Betty Studio Elf Christmas Crackers Set of Six
- Penguin Christmas Crackers set of six, £36 from Selfridges – buy here
This is a charming set of crackers for anyone looking for an eco-friendly option this Christmas, available at Selfridges as part of its Project Earth range.
Nancy & Betty's Penguin crackers are made from 100% sustainably-sourced paper and printed with vegetable-based ink, while the handmade design is finished with ribbons and bows for the most charming of finishes.
Gifts include a yoyo, wooden die, badge, bouncy ball, wooden spinner, rubber and crayons – which should keep the family entertained.
Foxy Magic Crackers Set of Six
- Foxy Magic Crackers Set of Six, £13.60 from OnBuy – buy here
Fancy learning a magic trick or two? With Foxy Magic's crackers, you can do just that. Featuring a fun harlequin design, each cracker comes with magic tricks and instructions!
It's bound to be lots of fun, plus the packaging is completely recyclable, so no plastic waste this Christmas.
Available at OnBuy, these crackers are better for the planet – and more fun for the family. Rabbit not included.
Bespoke & Oak Co. Personalised Handwritten Christmas Cracker
- Bespoke & Oak Co. Personalised Handwritten Christmas Cracker, £30 from Not On The High Street – buy here
For a truly personalised feel around the festive table, these crackers by Bespoke & Oak Co. from Not On the High Street are the perfect choice for impressing your guests.
Each cracker has a handwritten name in your choice of colour, along with a coordinating ribbon. Sticking to the homemade theme, they're supplied for you to make them up at home – which could be a fun activity for the kids to get involved in, too.
They also come with chocolate to pop inside, or you can of course get creative and add your own gifts.
Clear Crystal Swarovski Luxury Christmas Crackers
- Luxury Christmas Crackers created with Swarovski Crystals, from £11.99 at Clear Crystal – buy here
It's safe to assume that your guests will be impressed when they sit down to Christmas dinner and discover a Swarovski Christmas cracker, which are back for 2021.
Available from jewellery retailer Clear Crystal, each cracker is sure to satisfy thanks to a decadent selection of gifts; including 8mm drop earrings, an infinity bracelet and atomiser perfume/aftershave.
There are crackers aimed towards men and women, as well as the option to select unisex items such as a Zippo-style lighter and a wine bottle stop.
Plus, to make things extra luxurious in this indulgent season, you can even opt to have some Lindt chocolates included.
Hotel Chocolat Christmas Crackers
- Chocolate Table Cracker, £5 from Hotel Chocolat – buy here
Dive into this delectable Christmas cracker to find three Hotel Chocolat tasty festive figures.
Treat yourself to some mid-meal chocolate on Christmas Day with these high-quality crackers from Hotel Chocolat.
You can buy three for £12, or there's even a set of 10 miniature chocolate crackers for £17.
The dinky versions will be popular with the chocoholics as they each contain a different flavour such as Salted Caramel and Praline.
Marks and Spencer Percy Pig Recyclable Christmas Crackers
- Percy Pig Recyclable Christmas Crackers, £10 from Marks and Spencer – buy here
Percy Pig has taken the high-street by storm and has become the new favourite mascot for Marks and Spencer – and now our favourite pig (sorry, Peppa) has made it to our very own Christmas dinner table… but not like that!
Ideals for kids, this pack of six Percy Pig crackers comes in two festive designs, in red and green, and are completely plastic-free.
Each Percymas cracker is tied with raffia string, and contains a Percy Pig-themed puzzle, hat, joke and a charade – so there's zero waste here, but hours of fun to be had around the dinner table.
Plus, they're only a tenner so they're great value for money.
How much are the best Christmas crackers?
We hate to say it, but you get what you pay for when it comes to Christmas crackers – and when the gifts inside are flimsy little plastic things, it's often the case that cheap crackers just result in unnecessary waste.
We recommend shopping prices around £10 and up for good quality Christmas crackers. You'll notice the difference, with better paper quality and a better selection of gifts that you'll actually use.
Where to buy the best Christmas crackers
You can't go wrong with department stores like John Lewis and Selfridges when shopping for festive traditions like Christmas crackers. There's always a good choice of price points too, which is great if you're looking for quality that's affordable.
Similarly, card shops like Paperchase always have a good selection, while if you're looking for true luxury and decadence – the likes of Fortnum & Mason and Harrods are the height of festive extravagance. Just be prepared for eye-watering price tags!
You'll also find plenty of online options: the choice can be overwhelming, but we love websites like Not On the High Street and Etsy, where you can support independent businesses, and often find something more unique than the shop-bought standards.
What can I put in my homemade Christmas crackers?
Homemade Christmas crackers are a lovely way to bring some personalisation to your seasonal decor – plus it's always a fun activity for the family to help with and get in the festive spirit!
Besides the obvious (and foolproof) option of chocolates, there are some cute ideas you can fill your crackers with, depending on your guest's tastes. Here are some of our favourite suggestions:
- Mini bathbombs, creams, lip balms or nail varnishes
- Dried fruits and nuts
- A miniature bottle of liquor
- A personalised keyring
- A handwritten note containing a fact about that person or a challenge/dare
- An engagement ring (hint hint)
What makes Christmas crackers pop?
There are few sounds – and smells – more evocative of Christmas than the snapping of a cracker. And of course, then there's the satisfaction of being the person to get the winning end!
The pop of a cracker is all down to a combination of silver fulminate (an explosive chemical compound) and sandpaper, which are applied to two strips of card inside the cracker tube.
Pulling a cracker essentially creates friction between the two strips, causing the silver fulminate strip to heat up and 'explode' with a bang.
When was the cracker invented?
If you've ever wondered about the origins of the Christmas cracker, history takes us back to 1847, where a confectioner and baker called Tom Smith came across the ‘bon bon’ in Paris.
Taking the sweet back to London, Smith began selling them wrapped in a twist of tissue paper, before later adding the explosive element – which was inspired by the crackle of a log thrown on a fire.
A few modifications later, Smith had added a surprise gift and christened his new product 'Cosaques'. By the 1920s, his crackers were advertised with the slogan "World Renowned Christmas Crackers. No party complete without them" – and the rest, as they say, is history!
Enjoyed our round-up of the best Christmas crackers? Then you might also like our selection of the best advent calendars for men and women.
We've also rounded up the best pop-up Christmas trees that will make decorating a breeze this festive season.
And head over to Sun Selects for more tips, trends and product reviews – especially in the run down to Christmas 2021.
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