Christmas crackers are an English Christmas tradition that dates back to 1847. The cracker gets it's name from the cracking noise it makes when pulled apart and is used as a party favor at Christmas dinner.
They are available at many stores, in many colors, sizes, and prices, but this year I decided to make my own to go with our steampunk Christmas theme.
1. Use the cardboard tube from a a roll of paper towels. Measure 3-inches from each end and cut. I found that a serrated-edged bread knife does a good job of cutting through the tube without mashing it.
The "cracker snaps", the exploding strips of brown paper that make the crackers pop when they are pulled, can be purchased, along with other supplies, from Olde English Crackers.
2. Place the parts of the tube close together and cut a piece of wrapping paper big enough to cover all the parts of the tube. Do not tape or glue the paper in place just yet.
3. Slide the cracker snap into the tube.
4. Make a paper hat. Tissue paper is used because the thin paper is easy to fold into a small space and these must fit into the cardboard tube.
Cut a strip of tissue paper long enough to go around the recipient's head, plus a half-inch. Fold the strip in half length-wise, then in half again. One more fold in half will give you a crown with four points, two more folds will give you an eight pointed crown.
Make one cut at an angle. Then unfold.
If you wish to decorate the crown with rubber stamps, the way I did, this is the time to do that. Put newspapers or cardboard under the tissue paper before stamping, because the ink will bleed through the paper. Let the ink dry, then overlap the ends of the paper and tape or glue in place to form the crown.
The hat doesn't have to be a crown. For my Steampunk Christmas panel at the Gaslight Industries Expo, I made a paper top hat. It worked, but it was more time consuming to make and harder to fit into the cardboard tube.
5. Fill the center section of the tube with a paper hat, a joke, and a candy or prize.
6. Tape or glue the wrapping paper around the tube.
7. Gently pinch the area in between the tubes and tie a ribbon there. Discard the two end pieces of the tube.
The crackers can even be personalized by using a festive looking picture of each family member on the cracker, that will double as a place card for Christmas dinner.