I went, at 3 hours notice, to IKEA on Wednesday. In the course of the journey there and back again, we were talking about Christmas and getting presents to the States (Sarah being American). She mentioned, to my surprise, that Christmas crackers are not part of the whole festive ritual over there. It’s odd the extent to which you assume the time-honoured traditions which everyone groans about but takes part in are universal.

I’ve been to two Christmas meals already this year. The twitter history of one read:
8.49am: is in a party frock at 8am. Truly office party season is here.
2.27pm: is tipsy.
10.22pm: is pissed.

Dignity, always dignityAnd part of the tradition of office parties is the ritual humiliation of wearing the hat from the cracker. Or getting into a lengthy bartering session in order to get a hat in a better colour. When I was younger, I would refuse to put the hat on for more than a few minutes as it was so uncool. So undignified. But, of course, that the whole point of the hat. It’s supposed to undercut any authority a person has. Although it arrived in crackers as a marketing gimmick (as, indeed, did crackers themselves), it seems significant that the agreed shape of the hat is a crown. It harks back to the idea of the Lords of Misrule who preside over the Christmas Feast of Fools. The real fools are the ones unwilling to look undignified by wearing the damn thing. And the lack of crackers – and by implication the hats – makes me wonder what American viewers made of the scene where the shiny new tenth Doctor put on a paper crown in the first Doctor Who Christmas special. Without the cultural subtext, without knowing that no-one wants to wear the hats but everyone does it in order not to appear a fool, does that scene resonate for viewers?

I may not get online again before Thursday (presents to finish, more parties, visits to family, food shopping), so if I don’t I hope you all have a lovely break. And here’s some Christmassy fun for the fangrrls:


ETA: this is my 1000th post!

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7 Responses to “Crackers”

  1. Mark Clapham Says:

    I like that you rarely allow pics of yourself online, but you do let that one out.

    I always presumed Jughead in Archie wore a British style paper crown, but apparently not:

  2. Mags Says:

    All I want for Christmas is David Tennant. Remember that, young man!

  3. carrie Says:

    Funny about the Americans and hats! We had them in Canada. Maybe it’s a northern thing…

  4. Tiffany Says:

    Liz, thank you so much for this. I would definitely not kick David Tennant out my bed for eating crackers! (or popping crackers, in keeping with the post).

  5. Mags Says:

    Carrie ~ I think one theory is they tend to happen in Commonwealth countries (i.e. the custom was shipped out with the gin in the days of Empire).

    Tiffany ~ It’s those puppy dog eyes, gets me every time. Don’t cry, emo Time Lord!

  6. Tiffany Says:

    It’s true! Those eyes and the absolutely dorky smile. Just gets me every time.

  7. Printed Canvas Bags Says:

    I don’t see why people feel silly wearing cracker hats. They would be my choice of daily headwear if it wasn’t for the glorious British weather…

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