Crepe paper, sticky back plastic, wire coat hangers! My mum would dread these words when I was a kid, especially if they came on the heels of an episode of Blue Peter. Remember Blue Peter? My favorite TV show growing up, and it’s still going strong over 50 years since it started. For those of you that have not heard of Blue Peter it first broadcast in 1958 and is the world's longest-running children's television program. It started at a time when there was very little in the way of children’s TV in the UK and took a magazine/entertainment format. There were always lots of entertaining segments but was famous for its arts & crafts or "makes" – my personal favorite, my mum’s least!
So years ago, after watching an episode I decided to try and make the Blue Peter Christmas cracker centerpiece. Christmas crackers are a mainstay of a traditional English Christmas dinner; a tradition dating back to Victorian times. Apparently, a London sweetmaker, named Tom Smith, first made crackers in about 1850. He had seen the French 'bon bon' sweets (almonds wrapped in pretty paper), and one night, while he was sitting in front of his log fire, he became very interested by the sparks and cracks coming from the fire. Suddenly, he thought what a fun idea it would be, if his sweets and toys could be opened with a crack when their fancy wrappers were pulled in half. And so crackers were born.
A cracker is placed at every setting on the Christmas dinner table. Available in many colors and sizes, the paper tubes are always filled with a little gift and a paper party hat! As family & friends sit down for the wonderful feast, the first order of business is to pull these crackers. We cross arms and each person grabs an end of the cracker and pulls! The popper inside “cracks” as the paper rips apart and the contents of the cracker spill out. We then read the corny jokes and put the paper crowns on our heads – no excuses. We all look silly together, but that’s part of the tradition.
So back to the centerpiece: All those years ago I said to my mum, “I want to make the big Christmas cracker!” I found the cardboard, probably bought some crepe paper at W.H. Smith, and got to work. Unfortunately my mum didn’t have the backstage elves like on Blue Peter where the presenters would miraculously pull a finished “make” from under the table and say, “here’s one I made earlier.” But we muddled through and produced the centerpiece – and I loved it!
As projects go this one isn’t too difficult. As my original creation no longer existed, a few years ago I decided to recreate the cracker for my family.
Here’s what to do:
Get some sturdy cardboard – a couple of empty cereal boxes work. It’s up to you how big you make it, so cut 2 larger rectangular pieces of card for the middle pieces and 2 smaller rectangular pieces of card for the ends. They should be the same width but different depths.
Find some strong wrapping paper or foil paper and cut 2 large pieces big enough to lay a large and a small piece of card on. Lay the pieces of card on as shown in the picture. Glue the card onto the paper and fold the excess pieces from the side over onto the card like wrapping a gift.
Now make tubes out of the two pieces. I use a stapler for this. Make sure one is narrower than the other, so that it will fit into the larger one. Remember it will be filled with sweets or little gifts and you will want to pull it open and have the contents be a surprise for your guests.
Where there is just paper in the tube between the two pieces of card use string or gift ribbon to cinch them to create the cracker look!
You can now decorate it as you like! Your centerpiece is ready! Have fun going crackers!