Friday, December 24, 2010

Origins - Boxing Day and Christmas Crackers

Boxing Day

In England and in Canada, the day after Christmas is traditionally known as Boxing Day, and is a public holiday.
There are two likely theories regarding the origin of Boxing Day. The first and most likely is that the people who worked in service (those who worked "below stairs") had to work especially hard on Christmas Day and were therefore given the next day off.  On that day, they would receive a gift in a box containing money, and/or a trinket of appreciation from their employer. The reason for placing the money in the box was that the value of the present depended on a servant’s status.

The second theory is that that the alms boxes in churches were opened the day after Christmas, and the money was distributed to the poor in the community.

Christmas Crackers

The concept of the Christmas cracker began when Mr. Thomas Smith, an English confectioner, noticed during a trip to Paris that Bon-Bons, a sugared almond that was wrapped in a twist of waxed paper sold particularly well. He liked the idea, and when he returned to England in 1847, he began wrapping his confectionery and placing it in brightly colored boxes. The sweets were an immediate success, especially among the ladies, but, being a good businessman, he knew he had to keep ahead of the competition. He designed a lightweight, colorful paper tube with a saltpeter strip running through the center. The friction cuased by the cracker being pulled apart ignited the  saltpeter strip, making a loud crack. Later, Smith added other items to the tube such as a motto, a sweet (candy), a paper hat, and even a small trinket.