Crackers about crackers!

PUBLISHED: 05:28 15 December 2014

Christmas crackers

Christmas crackers

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

Christmas crackers are an essential part of the festivities - but the debris of crepe and crowns, trinkets and snaps is usually the first thing to be cleared away as the turkey and trimmings are tackled.

Christmas crackers are an essential part of the festivities – but the debris of crepe and crowns, trinkets and snaps is usually the first thing to be cleared away as the turkey and trimmings are tackled. However, Peter Kimpton of Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, has spent years preserving, collecting and researching the ephemera of crackers. Norfolk’s king of the Christmas cracker was a former designer for a cracker company and particularly loves the illustrated boxes.

In the spirit of the cracker itself, EDP Norfolk brings you 10 cracking Christmas cracker facts.

1 Christmas crackers were invented in 1860, when sweetmaker Tom Smith is credited with putting the snap into a package of sugared almonds, wrapped with a mini love note.

2 The groan-inducing jokes of today developed from Valentine-like love messages in Victorian crackers. An 1875 ode invoked sweet flowers, childhood mirth and Earth’s bounteous bosom.

3 The first crackers to be made in Norwich were created at the Caley’s chocolate and confectionary factory in Chapelfield in 1898.

4 Exactly a century later, in 1998, the last Norwich-made crackers came off the Tom Smith production line.

5 Many millions of crackers were made in Norwich and became an essential part of Christmas festivities around the world. In the 1980s, Norwich’s Tom Smith factory was producing 50 million crackers every year.

6 Artist A J Munnings, famous for his horse paintings, designed boxes for Caley crackers.

7 Early cracker novelties included “glass ornaments from Bohemia” and carvings from Japan and Scandinavia.

8 The Royal Family enjoyed Norwich crackers for many years, with gifts fit for kings, queens, princes and princesses including silk scarves and keyrings.

9 Crackers are not just for Christmas – Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, had Norwich-made his’n’hers crackers at their wedding breakfast, with cufflinks for him and a brooch for her.

10 Peter Kimpton’s next book, tracing the history of Norwich’s Tom Smith Christmas crackers, will be published by the Antique Collectors Club in 2014.

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