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!