Making “Christmas Cracker” Gift Surprises

Cracker Main
Wrap geeky gifts like Christmas crackers for an extra holiday surprise. All images: Lisa Tate

Every year during the holidays, we get a package of “Christmas Crackers” for our dinner plates. As fun as these are, they don’t offer a lot of variety in little prizes or styles.

A few years ago, we decided to make our own gifts that looked like Christmas Crackers for friends but that had a little more personality to appeal to everyone’s interests and fandoms. These ended up looking great and were a lot of fun to make for gifts.

Here’s what we used:

  • Cardboard paper towel or wrapping paper rolls
  • Ribbons or yarn
  • Tissue paper (for the paper crowns)
  • Various little geeky goodies, gifts and candies

First, cut the paper roll in to three pieces, one longer (about 6″) with two smaller pieces (about 1″ long each).

Place little “treats” inside the longer piece. One of the nice things about these is you can add cooler gifts than the ones that come in real commercial crackers, particularly if you’re theming it to go with special fandom. Little mini-figs, erasers, stickers rolls, and other small toys work, but we also add a couple of pieces of candy and replace those lame jokes with our own silly movie or book quotes or a comic strip.

cracker making
Crackers are easy to make using upcycled cardboard tubes and comic book pages.

It is also easy to make a little paper crown for the gift:

  1. Cut piece of tissue paper into a 6″ wide strip, about 2 to 2-1/2 feet long, depending on how big the head of the potential wearer is.
  2. Glue the two long ends together to make a hoop.
  3. Give it an accordion fold (three-fold works).
  4. Cut one end of the folded piece in a slant.
  5. When it is opened up, it will be a crown. To make it fit a geeky theme, use a temporary tattoo or sticker to decorate it. Fold it back up and slide it into the main paper tube.
hat steps
The five easy steps for making a paper crown.

Once filled, place the tube and the two ends (leaving a little space in between the main tube and two ends) on an old comic book, catalog, or magazine page or wrapping paper, then roll it up tight. Secure it with a small drop of school glue or clear tape.

Tie the open ends off with a thin ribbon or piece of yarn, and slowly push the smaller cardboard ring inside to give it that Christmas Cracker look. Place them among the other presents, hide them in a tree, or leave them on a pillow or book stand for a little extra surprise.

CrackerFinished
DIY cracker presents (left) look a lot like the commercial ones found in stores (right).

We also like to get creative when it comes to wearing those fragile paper crowns. Through the years, my daughters have found creative (and stylish) ways to wear these crowns, particularly as they’ve gotten older. Here are some of our favorites:

Head Wraps: For those with long or medium length hair, pull your hair through the crown (gently, without ripping it). This holds the crown in place like a headband and is less likely to fall over the eyes.

Hatbands: If you have a brimmed had, simply place the crown over the top. Sometimes we’ll fold them so they look like a plain colored hatband, but keeping the point crown tips showing is more fun.

crown wraps

Paper Bows: Just like working with any other tissue paper, fold the crown in half and accordion fold it into a bow. Use a pipe cleaner or rubber band to attach it to a barrette or bobby pin. This is a similar method to the bows and flowers you can make with candy wrappers. These are really easy and work well where I live on new the Mexican border, where colorful paper flowers are often part of regional holiday displays.

Paper Scarf: This is the simplest by far. Slowly rip the crown open at the glued seam, and tie it around a ponytail or a loosely around your neck. Be careful not to rip them.

crowbows

Of course, this DIY doesn’t create actual crackers, as Christmas crackers have to “pop..” This was the idea of a London sweet maker named Tom Smith who was inspired by Paris bonbon sweets to wrap his own candies in pretty paper. He added his own twist by borrowing a recipe from a fireworks company to create a small popping mechanism when they are pulled open.

If we want to go full cracker, I still like to use the commercial ones, but those who want to make their own crackers can buy a kit, complete with the popping cracker “snaps” and paper crowns, through various sites like Old English Crackers.

Even if our DIY cracker presents don’t pop, they still have that fun “there’s a surprise inside” feel to them, and that can make for a fun gift anytime a little gift or surprise is needed.

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