By now you are well aware that I am a major Anglophile and I become totally English at Christmas (it is in my DNA, my Mom was English and German), I adore all the tradition of an English Christmas and had the opportunity, several years, ago to spend Christmas with a family in the English countryside. It was a glorious week….roasts every day and major celebrations with presents and extraordinary meals for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
I remember sitting in the parlor one evening and said out loud that the perfect end for that day would be a glass of port and Stilton….out of nowhere in came my hostess with a whole wheel of Stilton, the proper silver scoop server, crystal port glasses, and a decanter of vintage port…..talk about hospitality!!!!! My hostess adored Christmas Crackers and we had them for all three days. They were quite elaborate and, of course, we all sat around with our paper crowns and read aloud our silly messages housed inside. I don’t remember all the tokens inside but they were very special. I know she got at least one set from Harrod’s. Years later back home in the States I was entertaining for Christmas Day with the traditional standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, etc. and wanted to do Crackers for my guests (and me!) and thought I would order them from Harrod’s, you can’t get much more authentic than that….well they started around £200 at the time and went up from there….needless to say I found some locally!
I found these last year, obviously for the ladies in attendance got others for the gentlemen.
In past years I spent time with friends for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and I always brought the Crackers and have found many locally, ones that I adored were from Burberry with super gifts inside, I got a beautiful red leather tape measure in mine one year. I have also found stunning ones at Costco (they are actually Tom Smith’s Crackers!!!)…yes, you heard correctly as well as by mailorder from Olde English Crackers where you can even create your own. Probably too late this year but you might try the Costco route, who knows. You might even get lucky at Randolph Street Market Holiday Event this Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5 and find some vintage ones, wouldn’t that be perfection. You know you will find things for yourself and for gifts as well as some vintage Victorian ephemera.
Christmas Crackers covered in Liberty of London prints, charming.
You knew, of course, that I would give you a bit of background on when and where this tradition began, it is an interesting story. In mid-19th Century Victorian England, Tom Smith, who was a candy maker and baker, discovered while in Paris a version of an early Cracker, a sugared almond wrapped in decorated paper twisted at each end. He decided to wrap his sweets at home in the same way. The trend didn’t catch on. Being an entrepreneur he decided to include a trinket. The idea of the snap came from fireworks and in 1961 Smith presented this version to the public and shall we say the company has never looked back. The legacy of “Bangs of Expectations” was carried on by Tom’s sons, Thomas, Henry, and Walter. In 1906, Tom Smith’s company was granted the Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales, which entitled the company to become a member of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.
I found this advertisement quite delightful.
Start now and you will be all set for Christmas 2018!
Covers of the boxes
Of course, a book recommendation for further research and enjoyment!
And another one for fun!
I know there isn’t time to make your own plum pudding (I do have a super recipe that I will share next year in plenty of time!) you can get really good ones from Crosse and Blackwell or you can make a mincemeat pie (my most favorite, I can eat an entire one myself, not all at one sitting….well maybe!) and serve the following hard sauce (which, by the way goes beautifully with poached pears or just by the spoonful!!! Bad Nena!) It is by far the best hard sauce ever, it was given to me by one of my Saks Store Managers, Bob Pike, along with the Plum Pudding recipe. Enjoy!!!!
FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX
BOB PIKE’S HARD SAUCE
2/3 cup soften butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup Calvados (or a bit more like I add)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
Place butter (in pieces) with sugar in a food processor add Calvados and vanilla. Process until creamy. Chill. (I use a hand mixer, I no longer have a food processor and you can lick the blades!)
All photos are from Pinterest no photo credit available