Jokes of Christmas Past: The History of Crackers… With Some Jokes Thrown In | History Hit

Jokes of Christmas Past: The History of Crackers… With Some Jokes Thrown In

Painting of children pulling a Christmas cracker. Norman Rockwell, 1919
Image Credit: Norman Rockwell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Among the many traditions that we associate with Christmas, crackers and cracker jokes – the latter of which are normally met with a groan – are near universal in Britain, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the US and Australia. Like many Christmas traditions, the Christmas cracker and its accompanying joke were invented by the Victorians.

Here’s a little breakdown of the Christmas cracker’s history, as well as a smattering of some of the best cracker jokes from both history and today.

They were invented by a confectioner

The Christmas cracker was invented by Tom Smith in 1847. A confectioner, Smith sold sugared almonds wrapped in twisted paper which were very popular around Christmas time. He started to add mottos and love poems to the almonds – which, at the time, were not intended to be cringeworthy – since most of his customer base were men buying them for their romantic interests.

However, sales of his wrapped almonds with love mottos were only moderate, so in 1860, Tom came up with the idea to add a ‘bang’ to the almond wrapping upon it being opened. Historians debate whether he was inspired by the crackling of a log fire, or whether he had the idea in the works for a long time. Either way, Smith’s ‘Bangs of Expectation’ – later renamed ‘crackers’ – were a hit.

In addition, their usage wasn’t originally confined to Christmas: instead, they were enjoyed during events such as royal coronations and votes for women marches.

Catalogue for Tom Smith’s Christmas Novelties from 1911

Image Credit: Unknown artist in 1911, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

His children added more elements to the cracker

When Smith’s son Walter took over the company in 1869, he added paper hats to the crackers. As other manufacturers picked up on the idea, the style of the notes found in crackers became more varied, and in the 1930s, the love poems and mottos were replaced by jokes, which by then had a reputation for being groan-worthy. Trinkets were also added, with the wealthy adding gifts such as jewellery.

Today, crackers come in a wide variety of shapes, styles and themes. More universal, however, is the general flavour of terrible jokes inside. Here’s a selection of some of the best – or worst – Christmas cracker jokes, dating from both the Victorian era and modern day.


Why is a Christmas pudding like the Atlantic Ocean?

Because it is full of currants.


Mrs. Henry Peck (whose mother has been visiting them for over four months): ‘I don’t know what to buy mother for a Christmas present. Do you?’

Mr. Henry Peck: ‘Yes! Buy her a travelling bag!’

The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, published in the ‘Illustrated London News’, 1848

Image Credit: Joseph Lionel Williams, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Thomas, spell weather,’ said a schoolmaster to one of his pupils. ‘W-i-e-a-t-h-i-o-u-r, weather.’ ‘Well, Thomas, you may sit down,’ said the teacher. ‘I think this is the worst spell of weather we have had since last Christmas.’


‘What do you think of the woman with a past?’

‘At Christmas she is likely to be won by the man with a present.’

A Victorian Christmas Card

Image Credit: Public Domain

Jabbers: ‘Going to get married on the twenty-fifth? Well, you are a chump!’

Havers: ‘Why?’

‘Because all your friends will make one gift do for both wedding and Christmas present.’

‘Of course. But hereafter I can do the same with my anniversary and Christmas presents to my wife. See?’


Modern day

Why was the snowman looking through the carrots?

He was picking his nose

Snowman on a frozen Lake Saimaa in Puumala, South Savonia, Finland

Image Credit: Petritap, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

What do you call buying a piano for the holidays?

Christmas Chopin


What would you call an elf who just has won the lottery?


Christmas Elf

Image Credit: Barta IV;;

What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa?

A rebel without a Claus


Who does Santa phone when he’s ill?

The National Elf Service.

Lucy Davidson