Pull The Other One: A Christmas Cracker Edit
Laying the Christmas table is one of my favourite parts of our festive tradition. I wrote last week about how competitive laying (no double entendre intended) runs in the family and how the planning of the lunch table is as well thought out as if it were the Last Supper. There are many elements involved in this routine. The selection and choice of Christmas cracker is one factor that is absolutely imperative to this process - theme and colour are carefully considered, no possible combination is left unturned. It’s a serious matter planned weeks in advance - no last minute garage crackers in the Dawson or Kerman household. We’re cracker hardcore. Or just crackers. Probably both.
Another Kerman tradition that comes from my side of the family is the ubiquitous table present. We’ve been doing this for around thirty years and it’s the best fun EVER. Basically, this is where everyone around the table buys someone else a small present to open after the main course. The rule is that it can’t be a serious present - it has to be fun, preferably rude and always under a tenner. We used to buy everyone a present but when there are 15 of you, that’s over 200 presents piled like Vesuvius on the centre of the table. Slightly excessive. Plus, you’d spend the equivalent of a small fortune on what was actually absolute shite, so a few years ago, we decided to cut back and draw names out of a hat to buy for one person only.
When I met Joe, I introduced the whole table present thing to the Dawson family and I am proud to say that receiving as tacky and cheap a present as possible has now become part of their Christmas routine too. From faux moustaches to toilet humour books, from Strictly Come Dancing face masks to comedy pants, over the years we’ve covered every avenue of present tat. It’s a guarantee that these presents will either be discarded on the floor or eaten by the dog by the end of the day but they always add an extra element of fun to the table.
This avalanche of excess table coverage has sometimes been to our detriment, however. Many years ago, we were celebrating Christmas at Joe’s parents house. Joe’s mum, Judith, had invested in a glorious Christmas greenery candle ring from the local florist, topped off with a large cream pillar candle - the perfect table centrepiece. These were the early Millennium days when it was standard to have regular fag breaks during dinner - this was before children when sitting around the table drinking Baileys and Tia Maria for hours on end was simply the norm.
Anyway, around 5.00 pm we left the table to retire to the living room for coffee and James Bond, completely forgetting that the candle was still burning away amongst the table detritus. When the smoke alarm on the third floor of the house went off during For Your Eyes Only, we rushed next door to be accosted by a flaming greenery ring. Due to the fact that we had surrounded ourselves in a veritable smog of Silk Cut fumage, our diminished sense of smell hadn’t picked up the fact that the dining room had gone up like the Towering Inferno (classic seventies reference, fyi). The moral of this story? Greenery candle centre pieces are not for Christmas, let alone for life (especially if you’ve had a few liquor coffees). Oh, and smoking isn’t that great for you either.
Anyway, I digress. I’m also a big believer that crackers don’t need to cost a fortune. Years ago, I’d peruse the innards description prior to purchase, looking for the best of the best cracker prizes. Since I’ve had children, I’ve realised that actually all you really need from a cracker is a strong hat, a good banger and a rubbish joke. The more rubbish the better, in fact. The cracker prize is secondary. For me - although I’m sure some will disagree - it’s all about the styling of the table and if the cracker fits the theme, then it’s a winner from me. I’m just as likely to buy my crackers from the supermarket as I am from a more expensive High Street store or independent. So in the interests of a happy Christmas and festive styling perfection, I’ve pulled together my Top 12 Christmas cracker choices that will take your table to the next level, whatever theme you pick. You’re welcome.
So there’s my top choices for your cracker decor. We’ll be spending Christmas Day at my sister in law’s home in Cookham this year so table setting duties won’t be down to me, but as a woman after my own heart, I know she’ll have nailed the cracker situation at least three months in advance. I’m also sure that the chances of a greenery candle wreath being included in her theme are minimal. And phew, I say, for that.