Giving with a Bang!

Greetings to you all,

It is fast approaching that time of year when we start to write lists of gifts to buy, cards to write and food to cook, as well as still keep up with the daily lists of things to do, school events … and so it never ends! With what can be a stressful time of year with lots going on, there are some things that you can do in advance and which can also be fun!

I actually made these crackers last year but it was too late for me to share them then so here goes! For the first year of which I hope will be many, a group of friends decided to hold our own ‘Christmas Day’ earlier in December before the mayhem really began and we all got too busy to meet up. We decided who would be the host and who would be responsible for preparing what food (I use the term ‘responsible’ loosely!) and the date was set. As well as being allocated the job of preparing the starter, I also volunteered to make the crackers as I had not made any before and I love trying something new.

After doing a little research into a few different methods of making crackers, I got stuck in. If I have learnt anything over the past few years it is to do some research into anything new that you are about to embark on. Believe me, it can be invaluable. I managed to find paper hats and even the snaps on eBay for a cheap price so I was halfway there. I could have made the hats myself as well and possibly will do in the future but as it was my first time of making crackers I just wanted to stick to the basics!

The most time-consuming aspect of the project was actually collecting the cardboard tubes from the inside of toilet rolls, of which I needed at least 8. This became rather a family affair and I would constantly remind my husband and boys to give me the cardboard tube if they finished the roll – I think they were quite relieved when I finally announced that I had collected enough! Already having some sheets of festive paper, it was then time to think about the ‘gifts’ that I would place in each cracker. In the spirit of celebrating on a budget, I decided to first raid my cupboards to see what I could re-use and I was pleasantly surprised. The items that I chose were actually left over party bag fillers from my son’s birthday party – I knew there was a reason why I kept them! We had a mini-biro, a small tube of blowing bubbles, an eraser, a fairy wand (!), a jeweled ring and a bouncy ball! All small enough to fit inside the cardboard tubing and items that could be found in any crackers that you would buy.

The crackers themselves were constructed using 3 small cardboard tubes – one for the middle to hold the paper hat, the small gift and the festive joke (these I found by just doing a Google search) with the other 2 tubes being used to create the bunched paper at each end of the cracker which is pulled.

I rolled the sheet of festive paper around the middle cardboard tube and secured in place with tape. It is worth noting that the decorative paper needs to be the width of three cardboard tubes or thereabouts. Next was to place the items inside the middle tube along with one cracker snap, which I actually sellotaped into place inside the tube; a little fiddly but at least this stopped it falling out when bunching the ends.

When creating the bunched ends to the cracker, I gently twisted the paper so that it met the edge of the middle tube and secured with a contrasting coloured piece of ribbon. I kept the end cardboard tube in place while I was doing this so as to maintain the rounded shape of the ends of the cracker and removed the tube once the ends have been made. This can then be used for making more crackers. The paper that I used was quite thick and this made it tricky to twist at the ends so in the future I think I’ll try thinner Christmas wrapping paper.

I really enjoyed making these crackers and love the idea that they can be easily personalised. It would be a great activity to involve the children and I am sure they would love finding small gifts to put inside. They could decorate using paints, collage resources and pens/pencils and even write the names of your guests on each one – the possibilities are endless! I made mine on a budget, using mainly resources that I already had but you could also use them as a way of giving more expensive gifts such as jewelry. Obviously you would be restricted by the size of the cracker but I love the idea of an engagement ring or something being hidden inside – that is the romantic in me!

My homemade crackers were a success at the dinner table and the cracker snap actually went bang – phew! I hope to make many more in the future and speaking of which, I should get moving with making them for this Christmas!

Until next time,

 L x

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