Saturday, December 18, 2010

5th Day of Christmas - Behold the rat ring! (Christmas Crackers)

Earlier this week, those of us living in Seattle experienced heavy rains, and some unluckier Seattleites got to deal with flooding in their homes. I was on the unlucky list.

BUT as I was sweeping away the water in our basement and clearing out our drowned belongings, my eye shot to one of my prized gifts from last Christmas floating by: the rat ring. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade: this little find made my day!

I'm sure I got many wonderful presents last year, all of which I'm thankful for, but one of the few I truly remember is the rat ring. And that is because every year we have the tradition of opening Christmas Crackers with our close family friends and kids and that rat ring was the creme de la creme of last years cracker toys.

Every year after a day full of opening gifts, eating great food, having some wine and eating more than one dessert, we top off the day by passing around a cracker and ending the evening with some fun. For those of you who have yet to make this a tradition in your home, you are really missing out.

First, the crackers are nestled next to our dessert plates in their festive attire and its not only the kids that eye them, wondering whats inside and who is going to get what. When the time comes to open the crackers, everyone has a different tradition, but we use the 'wishbone' method where someone takes each end and the person with the most cracker after it is split gets a wish and some great toys! Generally each cracker comes with a fun paper crown (which everyone MUST wear), a surprise toy and a joke, fun fact or riddle. And they are called "crackers" for a reason, so don't be surprised by the small bang when the cracker is opened. (don't warn the kids the first time, their shocked faces will be priceless).

The history of the Christmas Cracker dates back to the 1840's when an English baker named Tom Smith was looking for a new marketing twist to sell his almond candies, also known as bon bons. First he was inspired by fortune cookies and started adding fortunes and love notes to his candies. Then he had the idea of making the wrapper 'pop!' while sitting next to a crackling log. Soon he added small toys. The marketing gimmick became so popular, competitors starting using the format and, to out do each other, businesses began dressing their crackers up, resulting in the fun, festive wrapped goodies we see today.

This year, my Blog cracker included a great little puzzle made of colorful plastic shapes that could be assembled into a number of designs, like the bird I put together to the right. I know a 6 year old who is going to love this! And, of course, it had the crown and some jokes like "What do you call a fish with no eyes?" Answer: "A fsh". ok, not so funny.

But back to the rat ring. Really, how practical is a ring that fits anyone and can help you find your way in the dark?!? And to my amazement, even though it had been sitting in the basement for a year and was totally wet, it still worked! They make these toys to last! And what lasts even longer are the fun memories that such a small little treat can bring.

I hope you try Christmas Crackers as a fun tradition for your holiday. It's the simple pleasures in life that last (along with rat rings). Happy Holidays everyone! --Kim

P.S. Paper Zone carries the ready made crackers (like the one above), already filled with toys in a variety of fun designs. No assembly required, "pop!" and resulting laughter included with every cracker. Enjoy!


  1. you going to be selling rat rings soon? i want one!

  2. Love Christmas poppers. I have been wanting to do them but does anyone know where you get the popping strings for them? It's the string you pull when you open the cracker to make it POP.

  3. I haven't made them from scratch. We carry the ready-made crackers at Paper Zone that include the toys like the rat ring. If you do make your own, please post pictures on our Facebook page. Would be interesting to see!

  4. Love your post....although there have been a few years we missed opening our Christmas Crackers - usually when we couldn't find them - this has been a tradition in our home as well....Happy Memories!

  5. Sorry about the flooding! Christmas Crackers aren't a tradition in our house, but they sure sound interesting!

  6. Although I am sorry to hear about your flooding issue, I thank you for sharing the Rat Ring!
    I used to work at Packaging Specialties (a store in Seattle) who carry the "Cracker Strips" that make the crackers crack. I've made several myself, but have run out of the cracker strips.
    I may need to purchase some ready-made ones from PZ this year! Too cute!

  7. What an awesome tradition! I love how the simplest things can become the best memories. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I would love to learn how to make a Christmas Popper too! Do yours at the store give complete instructions? Maybe I can do that next year!!

    And as for that fish joke...yes it is too funny! And my Grandson loves jokes! I couldn't get him a joke book this year like I usually do for Christmas, but they have a new aquarium!! It's just filled with interesting fish & shrimp & star fish! I will let him show me the newest additions Christmas Eve. Then I'll tell him your joke! He's 8 yrs old & will love that! Then he can use it when friends come over as he shows the fish & tells them what they are called!!
    Thank you for that little bit of joy that I can share with him & his brothers & parents & friends!!
    Merry Christmas Paper Zone Staff!
    Especially those in the Tacoma Store!
    They have always been so kind & helpful!!
    Celia Clifford

  9. PS: OIC!! They come pre-made with toys!
    Also, I don'y use my BlogSpot, as I can'y figure out how to make it like I want it. I'm PaperObsessions on aol mail.

  10. Oh wow! I haven't done those in YEARS! These ones, are way more beautiful tho, I almost wouldn't want to open it up!

  11. Love the rat ring! My daughter-in-law's family has had the tradition of the Christmas crackers for years. They introduced it to our family the first Christmas we all spent together (~4 years ago.) It's great fun and our granddaughters have a blast making them "pop". Thanks for sharing this story. And I can empathize with your storm woes! We had damage, too.

  12. I have made them only with out the poppers as I have never been able to find the tag thingy that makes for the pop. I don't think they would sell the pulls as they probably contain sulfur which would make for the pop. Instead I take a toilet paper roll... You can buy them in pkg's and are sterile. I take a Friskars hand help cutter with a perforating blade on it..insert a round wood block (from my kids toy sack) inside the roll and cut around it well with a few cuts extra wide for easy breakage.Then glue a piece of ribbon on the inside so that when pulled they will pull apart. Then fill and decorate them. I make these for Christmas and Halloween. Unfortunately you don't get the pop but you still get then surprises inside.:)

  13. What a great tradition! Sorry you got flooded! Sometimes it's just a pain to live in Seattle! But what do you do, we just deal with it! Hope your home is all better now. Thanks for sharing your great family tradition!

  14. Shoot! Here it is Christmas Eve and I don't have any crackers! This will be a great new tradition next year!