Christmas crackers: an essential part of everyoneâ€™s festive dinner table. Too often, though, their plastic gifts end up being played with for a matter of minutes, before making their way to the bin.
Ideally, thatâ€™s not the case with the higher end of the market â€“ with many luxury cracker makers upping their game when it comes to the gifts inside, as well as everything else down to the crowns, the jokes (sometimes) and the ribbons.
Luxury here comes in many shapes and forms, beginning with the more affordable, nicely designed cracker sets with higher-quality classic gifts. Then there are the fancy beauty crackers containing treats from high-end brands, the foodie crackers, and the cocktail-themed alcoholic crackers containing mini-bottles of spirits. And it goes all the way up to super high-end crackers containing beautifully packaged luxury products thatâ€™d make great gifts in their own right.
During our research, we pulled a grand total of 50 luxury Christmas crackers to find out which ones were the best of the best â€“ here are our favourites for 2018.
Â£36 for one, Hotel Chocolat
Best for: Big groups
You might not want to pull this one over the Christmas dinner â€“ this cracker behemoth is best snapped in a full-on family-size tug-of-war in the living room. Measuring just over 60cm in length and 12cm wide, there are 40 individually wrapped Hotel Chocolat treats in inside, including flavours such as honey and cashew, mulled wine, and treacle tart, as well as chocolate Santas, classic champagne truffles, gin and rum-filled chocs and salted caramel cups. And then there are 12 quality gold paper hats and an envelope of classically terrible jokes carrying a humour warning.
The cracker has a centrepiece-worthy size and design, with big red ribbons, even incorporating a classic snap, and itâ€™s one of the most fun cracker options on the market.
Â£39.95 for six, The Whisky Exchange
Best for: Lively parties
Thereâ€™s no snap when you pull these crackers, but no matter, because the contents pack enough of a punch. Instead of tacky trinkets, each of these red and white, modern-looking crackers â€“ carrying the word for â€˜cheersâ€™ in different languages â€“ contains a spirit selected by The Whisky Exchangeâ€™s team of experts.
There are libations to suit the whole family, from Mahiki coconut rum and Spytail black ginger rum, to Old Pulteney Stroma and Copper Dog blended malt whiskies, Saliza amaretto Veneziano and Whitley Neill gin. They all come in matching bottle designs, each 30ml, with the obligatory gold paper hats, and instead of a joke thereâ€™s a conversation piece in every cracker in the shape of a booze-related fact. Cheers!
Â£39.95 for six, Liberty London
Best for: Extravagance
These flamboyant peacock-feather crackers, with glittery and metallic turquoise, purple and gold variations, are handmade in Dorset. Theyâ€™re filled with a useful array of the more traditional gifts in black and silver (that are definitely a cut above the plastic ones in standard crackers), including a corkscrew, reindeer key ring, compact mirror, compass, a lipstick holder, and a fancy-looking silver yo-yo. Thereâ€™s a satisfying, reliable snap when pulled (no unnecessary tussling here) and theyâ€™ll also provide a hat and cheesy joke sheet with accompanying proverb or quote. Itâ€™s everything you need in a traditional cracker, but the glitzy designs will provide some extra pizzazz for the table.
Â£50 for six, The Mount Street Deli
Best for: Cocktail lovers
This set of crackers pay homage to Londonâ€™s iconic Ivy restaurant â€“ where famous reservations over the years have included everyone from Laurence Olivier to the Beckhams and Benedict Cumberbatch. The harlequin design mimics the restaurantâ€™s stained glass windows, and inside each one youâ€™ll find a signature recipe for one of The Ivyâ€™s cocktails, from the Hemingway Daiquiri to a Sidecar or Tom Collins, and a miniature bottle of the starring spirit.
You might not have the remaining cocktail ingredients to hand on Christmas day (a shopping list on the box might be useful) but those with a well-stocked liquor cabinet and enough lemons and limes in the fridge will do just fine. As well as containing a joke and conversation starter, the crowns inside also win on longevity, with a robust, quality gold-card crown thatâ€™ll remain steadfast until long after the Queenâ€™s Speech.
Â£32 for one, Jo Malone
Best for: Beauty
This Jo Malone cracker should please any beauty addicts, featuring products from the high-end British-born fragrance brand and providing a perhaps welcome antidote to festive food and booze.
Packed in a pretty square cracker, with a shimmering pink, gold and silver metallic design and sparkling champagne ribbons, this works just as well under the tree or in a stocking as it does on the table.
It contains three beautifully scented Jo Malone miniatures (in ideal sizes for travel or stowing in a make-up bag): a Red Roses Cologne (9ml), English Oak and Redcurrant body and hand wash (15ml), and a Lime Basil and Mandarin Body CrÃ¨me (15ml).
Â£65 for six, Selfridges
Best for: Traditionalists
These classy champagne-coloured glitter crackers are handmade in England, exclusively for Selfridges. The bells are a nice, festive touch, as are the presentation bags inside, carrying the tissue-wrapped gifts â€“ because isnâ€™t unwrapping one of the best parts of Christmas Day?
Said gifts include a mini-hip flask, champagne bottle stops, silver key rings, a fancy pen and a spirit measure for making cocktails, along with gold and silver hats, plus joke sheets with trivia and proverbs. Theyâ€™re an elegant and beautifully presented option, with quality gifts inside, and ideal for anyone aiming for tasteful table styling this Christmas.
Â£275 for six, Fornum & Mason
Best for: Heritage
The crackers from Fortnum & Mason are just as extravagant as its Christmas hampers. This large red and green set with tartan and velvet bows and trim has a quintessentially English Christmas look, with mini-pine cone and berry detailing.
Snap one of these and out pops a yellow-gold gift bag, containing a high-quality card hat, an â€˜entertaining scrollâ€™ (a fancy name for a joke sheet) and a high-value gift. Guests definitely wonâ€™t be trying to subtly leave these behind for the rubbish: they include an array of Fortnum & Masonâ€™s classic mint-green packaged treats, including a 50ml pomegranate rose hand cream, luxury soaps, chocolate truffle boxes (two to a cracker) and spirits such as 12-year-old Scotch and Hendricks. Even the jokes are fittingly Fortnumâ€™s, with their punchline subjects ranging from camembert to royalty.
Â£12 for one, Cowshed
Best for: Grooming
We love this option with his and her crackers from luxury brand Soho Houseâ€™s skincare arm, Cowshed. The female-focused Cowshed Cracker is all about hands, with a nourishing apricot cuticle oil (11ml) and a restoring Cow Herb hand cream (50ml), while the menâ€™s Bullocks Cracker contains a Bullocks moisturiser (50ml) and shaving cream (20ml).
They donâ€™t snap, but theyâ€™re a luxurious, wellbeing-focused alternative cracker option if youâ€™re sick of the hats and bad jokes aspect of Christmas crackers. Theyâ€™ll also look great as gifts on the table, with ribbon fastenings and tasteful square card cracker packaging (with, refreshingly, blue for the girls, brown for the boys).
Â£18 for six, John Lewis
Best for: Wow factor
For a bigger bang, these party-popping crackers have a mini firework inside that shoots red and white, Christmassy confetti everywhere. This specialist confetti-popping cracker brand Crackertoa makes its luxury option in two designs: glittery silver and white star, and a festive pine-needles version in green and red. Hats are the standard tissue-paper kind, while gifts are a cut above the usual plastic fodder, with useful items such as a nail file, metal bottle opener, tape measure and screwdriver set all included.
As well as a joke, thereâ€™s a quote and a conversation starter in the form of a â€˜would you ratherâ€™ question. Crackertoaâ€™s luxury option is a good-value, affordable choice for crackers with added wow factor. Just be sure to hold at armâ€™s length and aim away from the turkey.
Â£65 for six, Petersham Nurseries
Best for: Gardeners
Petersham Nurseries (a sustainable, family-run brand) has created some seriously classy crackers. The dark, charcoal-green card makes the gold lettering and logo stand out, while the swish red and gold Indian ribbon adds some Christmas cheer.
As well as the usual joke sheets and some quality gold and silver card hats, the trinkets tick the handmade, unusual and organic boxes â€“ thereâ€™s a felt animal key ring, an engraved card holder, a bronze elephant paperclip, a wooden carrot pen, hand cream and wildflower seeds. The only drawback is that the cardâ€™s so thick, theyâ€™ll take some welly when pulling. Still, this is a high-quality, unique option for a green-fingered crowd.
Â£39.60 for six, Not On The High Street
Best for: Crafting
Not on the High Street is a great source of handmade products with a small-scale, personal feel, and these crackers are a prime example. You can choose your filling, from table football to chocolate, sweet pea seeds and modelling balloons (bespoke requests can also be accommodated), and you can even ask them not to include the hats and jokes if youâ€™re not in it for the naff factor.
We opted for origami – which came in the form of ornate Japanese-style designs on paper squares and step-by-step instruction sheets depicting how to make a heart, a mini frog, a boat and other origami creations – as well as hats that turned out to be robust and high quality, and jokes that were fittingly bad. A fun option to encourage some tableside creativity.
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