The Christmas cracker has a wonderful history, dating back to 1840 in England. It is basically a tube filled with goodies, tied at both ends, and inside is a snap, a strip of cardboard with a friction spot which makes a loud popping noise when pulled from both ends. Traditionally they are favors at Christmas parties or at Christmas dinner. They usually contain a charm or toy, a joke and a tissue paper crown. You can buy them already filled, make-our-own kits or you can make your own. If you want that wonderful pop, however, you will have to buy your own snaps. We like to celebrate the full twelve days of Christmas (December 25-January 5), and they seem like a lovely addition to a New Year's Eve celebration as well. You can buy them already filled or you can make your own. To make them especially New Year's Eve-ish you could fill them with noisemakers and confetti.
To make your own, you will need cardboard tubes. I am guessing that at this time of year, you probably have a few empty rolls from wrapping paper. Toilet paper tubes work fine, too. Or, you can roll your own from cardstock (here is a photo tutorial at not martha if you want to use that method.) If you are using snaps, you will need to size your tube length to accommodate their length. If your tube is longer than your snaps, it’s hard for your guests to grab a snapper end and achieve a pop. If you have a long tube to work with like a wrapping paper or wax paper tube, then you can cut your tube into three sections, two for the ends and one for the middle. If you are working with smaller tubes, like toilet paper tubes, you will need three lined up together.
For the paper wrapper, you will want to use a thin wrapping paper or some tissue paper (few sheets together is fine) so that it can pull apart. Cut enough paper for a little overlap when wrapped.
Tape or glue your cracker snap into the central tube, with the end sticking out of one end. Glue your paper onto your center tube securely.
Align the other two tubes on either end of the center tube by slipping them into the wrapping paper with the snap fitting neatly inside one of the end tubes. Do not tape or glue your end tubes to your cracker paper. The outside tubes are used to keep your cracker ends looking perfect, and will be removed later.
Slide out one end tube to create a small 1/4″ gap between it and the center tube. Use your fingers to make a neat crease in the gap. Wrap a piece of ribbon or string around the gap. Tie a bow or use your preferred decorative flourish to finish the ribbon. Do not remove the end tube, yet. Keep the tube in place to keep your cracker paper uncreased. Fill the open cracker end with a gift, a paper hat (crown), candy, a joke and whatever else you want (and can fit!) Close the final cracker end using the same technique you used for the first end, making sure the snap is still lying neatly. Carefully remove the cracker end tubes. Be careful not to remove the snap.
How to make a paper hat:
Cut a strip of tissue paper to measure about 3 1/2″ x 24″.
Tape short edges together with double-sided tape.
Fold in half, create a solid crease.
Fold in half a second time, create a solid crease.
Fold in half a third time, crease it again.
Using scissors, cut one edge at an angle.
Open to inspect paper crown to make sure they came out the way you want them to.
Repeat for each crown.