KEITH LANGFORD, managing director of cracker-making business Absolutely Crackers, in Milton Keynes, spends his entire year, not just Christmas, with crackers on his mind.

"The bulk of our cracker sales used to be in the USA," says Keith, "but, over the last three years or so, our sales in the UK have overtaken America. My website is a one-stop cracker shop where people can buy for all occasions. Crackers are certainly not just seasonal nowadays, though of course the most traditional time for crackers is still the festive season.


"Crackers are now popular at many different functions and their popularity is growing all the time.
"Wedding crackers are a very popular buy. They contain cherubs, charms, and other wedding-related items. And they look great on tables at receptions. Collectible crackers are a big hit too. Wade Whimsies and various other figurines are inside them and provide mementoes of a lovely dinner or celebration for those attending.

"The cracker's been around for more than 150 years. It was invented in 1847, almost by accident, by Victorian baker Tom Smith. It was a very simple idea that went on to become an integral part of British celebrations and tradition.
"Tom Smith was forward thinking, often travelling abroad to search for new ideas and, on a trip to Paris in 1840, he discovered the 'bon-bon', a sugar almond wrapped in a twist of tissue paper. It was a simple idea that over the next few years would evolve into the cracker.
"He brought bon-bons to London where they proved very popular over Christmas. When sales dwindled in January, Tom decided to place a small love motto in the tissue paper and encouraged his suppliers to buy.
"Tom was on to a winner. He wanted a 'crackle' to add a spark of excitement to his novelty bon-bon and experimented to find a compound to give a suitable bang caused by friction when the wrapping was broken.
"He increased the size but kept the bon-bon's shape, the motto, and added a surprise gift. The cracker was born, and Tom Smith's business went from strength to strength."

Harry Potter

Has Keith a favourite amongst the many styles of crackers?
"There's no easy answer to that," he says. "I have a soft spot for them all, from traditional ones and themed ones, such as Harry Potter and The Simpsons, to cracker kits that are assembled by the customers who then add their own chosen gifts.
"A current big hit with my customers are Musical Concerto crackers.
"Each one holds a different musical note whistle and, by using the music sheet included, folk can play both everyday and Christmas songs. Great fun!"
And will Keith spend Christmas knee-deep in crackers?
"You bet! I sleep, eat and breathe crackers 365 days a year. In fact, I'm Absolutely Crackers!"

Pull the other one, Keith!

Visit for more information.

The Sunday Post
18th December 2005