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Monday, December 19, 2011

How To Make Christmas Crackers (BonBons)

Christmas crackers, or bon-bons, as they are also known, have long been a part of Christmas tradition in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.  Growing up in Australia Christmas Crackers have always been a part of Christmas.  Of course, like many things, the commercially produced crackers became more expensive over the years while the contents seemed to decrease each year.

I started to make my own crackers when I was about 12 and it became a bit of a tradition with my own family and friends for me to do so.  People preferred my hand made crackers to the commercially available variety.  The demand was such that for several years I used to make and sell them.

They are easy to make, and can be as fancy or as simple as you wish.  The only limit is your own imagination.   Use them just for fun or to wrap up small gifts.  Or use them as a place card for a dinner party by adding individual names to each cracker.

Let me show you the basic quick and easy way to make them.  Once you have the basics, you can modify your crackers any way you like!

What you will need:

  • Wrapping paper
  • Toilet paper tubes (1 per cracker) or other cardboard tubes cut to size.
  • Cracker snaps (1 per cracker).  You can make them without the snaps if you wish
  • Ribbon. (I use curling ribbon, but any ribbon may be used).
  • Tape (You can use a glue gun or glue stick if you prefer)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper (Only if you wish to make your own paper hats)
  • Jokes, quotes, or riddles
  • Presents, trinkets (small enough to fit into the tube)
  • Wrapped candy

Cut your paper:

Your choice of paper is limitless.  Some paper works better than others do, however. Tissue paper is a bit thin and rips easily so I do not suggest that you use it to wrap your crackers with.  Foil papers, by contrast, are often too strong and will not tare.  Crepe paper is too stretchy to work, so avoid that.  Regular wrapping paper is perfect.  Select the color and style you prefer.

Measure out the wrapping paper. The piece needs to be wide enough to cover the tube, leaving at least 4-5 inches of paper to spare at each end of the tube.

The size of your paper depends on the length and width of the cardboard tube you are using. Saving up your toilet paper tubes is free and has the added benefit of recycling.  You can also use the inner tubes from foil, plastic wrap, paper towel, etc.  Just cut them to the desired length for the inside of your cracker.  If you do not have any of those, you can get some regular cardboard (poster board) and make your own tubes.   I typically use the toilet roll tubes, as they are the perfect length and diameter.  For this size I use about a 12-13 inch length of paper.  Measure how wide each piece needs to be based upon the diameter of the tube you are using.  You want enough paper to go around the roll, but not around twice.  Lay the tube on the paper and measure. You need enough paper for a little overlap when wrapped. Cut as many cracker sheets as you will need.

Tip:  If you are using cracker snaps make sure to measure the paper wide enough to cover  the snaps from end to end. 

Roll your cracker:

Tape or glue your cracker snap into the central tube. Be sure not to tape or glue it on both sides of where the snap meets in the middle.  In order for the snap to go ‘bang’ the overlapped piece of the snap must be able to be pulled apart. 

Tape or glue one side of the paper to the tube and roll the paper to cover the tube.  I like to fold over the opposite edge of the paper so that when I have rolled up the cracker there is a nice neat edge and it helps to camouflage the edge of the paper.  Use a small piece of tape or glue to secure the paper in place once you have rolled it up.

Fill your crackers:

We will come back to what to put inside your cracker in a moment.  First, you will need to close one end of your cracker to keep the goodies securely inside.  Use your fingers to make a crease in each end of the cracker at the ends of the tube on either side. Wrap a piece of ribbon around one end. Tie a bow or if using curling ribbon curl it up for a decorative flourish.

From the other, open end of the cracker, you can place your trinkets and gifts into the inner tube of your cracker.

What to put into your cracker?

Traditionally, inside crackers you will find a joke, a paper hat, candy and a small toy or trinket.  However, you can be as creative as you wish and fill your cracker with anything you like.

If you cannot find ready-made paper hats, (the fold up kind that will fit inside the cracker), it is easy to make your own.
  • You may like to use jokes, quotes, or trivia questions. Print or write them out, and then cut them to a small size so you can fold them and add them to your cracker.
  • Add small toys, or trinkets.
  • Sewing kit, cross stitch kit
  • Post-It notes, stationery, pens, erasers, etc.
  • How about jewelry or a gift certificate. 
  • Wrapped candy, or even home made treats.

Think small, but with big creativity.  You can make your crackers all the same or customize each cracker for a specific person.

Finish your cracker:
Close the other end of the cracker the same way you closed the first end. You can end your work there, if you like.  You have a perfectly fine cracker already.

However, if you want, you can decorate your cracker any way you wish.  Use stamps, stickers, ribbon, cut outs, beads or anything you can imagine adding your own special decoration to your crackers. Add a dash of glitter glue, or stick on small images that you have cut from old Christmas cards – more recycling!

I usually add a sticker to mine. I place it directly over the piece of tape I used to secure the paper after I roll it up.  It hides the tape and adds that little flourish to the cracker.

Sometimes I use decorative edge craft scissors, or pinking sheers to cut the ends of the crackers – just to give the paper a little finishing touch, too.

Where to get the snaps from?

If you are in the UK or Australia, they are readily available.  I know they are available in the USA but you may have to search online for a supplier.  Search for “Christmas snaps” or “Christmas cracker supplies”.

Traditionally Christmas crackers do have the snap, and when you pull the cracker apart, it makes a ‘bang’ noise.  It is part of the fun, so use them if you can.   However, if you do not have them, you can still have a great time and enjoy your silent crackers just as much.

I hope you have fun making and sharing your very own Christmas crackers.

Peace and goodwill to all,



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