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The British know how to enjoy Christmas dinner – they crack crackers! What is this strange tradition?
A Christmas cracker is a cardboard paper tube covered in colourful paper. The paper on both ends of the tube is twisted. You are probably thinking, “That’s it? What’s so special about that?” You will find the answer to that question inside the cracker! To open the cracker, two people pull on each end which breaks the paper. When the cracker breaks, there will be a loud BANG and a small present, a joke or a riddle and a paper hat will fall out. Then, everyone wears their paper hat, reads their jokes and enjoys their present which can be a sewing kit, a pair of nail clippers or a keyring, for example. You can buy crackers in shops or you can make your own.
This is a great British tradition, but where does it come from?
The tradition began in 1847 in London. Tom Smith – a confectioner – sold bon-bons in a twisted paper package. Men mostly bought these bon-bons for women, so he started putting love poems inside the package too. Little by little he developed his product to include a banger. A banger is a strip of paper with a little bit of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulphur on it. This banger is attached to the inside of the tube. When two people pull on the cracker, they create friction between the tube and the strip of paper. This heats the chemicals and they explode with a loud BANG!
Over the years, the bon-bon was replaced with a small present. Then, in the early 1900s, Tom Smith’s sons added paper hats in the shape of a crown to the cracker. Later, people changed the love poems to jokes and riddles so that everyone could enjoy the crackers. Today, crackers are a popular Christmas tradition. It simply would not be Christmas without Christmas crackers – so get cracking!
cardboard = carton
twisted = entortillé
riddle = devinette
a sewing kit = un nécessaire de couture
a nail clippers = un coupe-ongles
a keyring = un porte-clés
a banger = un pétard
a strip = une bande
charcoal = charbon
to heat = chauffer
a crown = un couronne
to get cracking = s’y mettre
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