9 best Christmas crackers full of gifts you’ll actually keep, with no single-use plastic in sight

From origami to bingo, there’s a box of festive fun for everybody

Jess Denham@jess_denham
Monday 04 November 2019 18:44
Rest assured that every cracker on our roundup has a satisfying snap, with the exception of our bang-free pet cracker
Rest assured that every cracker on our roundup has a satisfying snap, with the exception of our bang-free pet cracker

Brits may collectively groan at the cheesy jokes and silly hats, but it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without pulling a cracker.

There’s an overwhelming range of Christmas crackers on the market but the quality varies wildly.

Sustainability is high on our agenda this year, with the plastic-free drive meaning many of us will be steering clear of the ubiquitous plastic tat that has become synonymous with crackers.

In anticipation of this, only crackers containing plastic-free trinkets, or treasures made from plastic that you’ll keep and use, have made the cut.

Our list features plenty of crackers that will sit pretty on your Christmas dinner table without leaving you broke, alongside a few more luxurious options for those with cash to splash.

Rest assured that every cracker on our roundup has a satisfying snap, with the exception of our bang-free pet cracker.

From crackers that are traditional in design to those with a modern twist, those you fill yourself and those that children will enjoy, there’s a box of festive fun for everybody.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Toast Christmas crackers, set of six: £39, Toast

If eco-friendliness is a priority but you don’t want to sacrifice aesthetics for ethics, these fancy crackers from slow lifestyle brand Toast are a must-buy. Guaranteed to wow family and friends over Christmas and New Year, they’re handmade in Dorset from gorgeous Nepalese paper that’s been block-printed by hand by a fairtrade cooperative in the Kathmandu Valleys. Inside, you’ll find a paper hat, a literary riddle and a joke.

But it’s the uniquely charming gifts that will win you over. From a silver paper angel chain and a paper star garland, both made from paper wastage, to a paper fan decoration, a hand-carved woodblock print, a set of mini colouring pencils and our favourite, a miniature felt animal, these little treasures are truly special.

Buy now

Lakeland Cotswold tree bingo Christmas crackers, set of six: £14.99, Lakeland

It’s not only your granny who will get all nostalgic at the idea of Christmas bingo. This box of crackers features a large bingo number card for calling out (the numbers break up so you can pop them in a hat and pick them at random without anyone having to sit out), with individual bingo cards, pencils, green paper hats and jokes found in every cracker.

The crackers themselves look stunning, printed with a delicate forest design and tied in gold ribbon. Snap them and enjoy a game while waiting for the Christmas pudding. Best of all, you can rub off your pencil marks and play again, before storing the pieces away for next year.

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Drinks by the Dram gin crackers, set of six: £29.95, Master of Malt

Gingle bells, gingle bells! Gin connoisseurs will be thrilled to find one of these elegant red crackers, tied with big gold ribbons on their plate this Christmas. Each one houses a 30ml dram of first-class gin, from Bathtub sloe to Tanqueray rangpur. There’s even a special yuletide gin from That Boutique-y Gin Company in the mix.

There’ll be tidings of juniper-based joy all-round, complete with the obligatory paper hats and cringeworthy jokes. Not a gin fan? There are crackers filled with whisky, spirits and liqueurs available too, and all of them can be bought individually from £4.45 if you need a couple more.

Buy now

Meri Meri woodland creature medium crackers, set of eight: £23, Meri Meri

The sweet wooden animal keyrings found inside these adorable crackers from partyware brand Meri Meri will make a refreshing change from nail clippers and fortune teller fish. Each one is different, including foxes, owls and bears, so a family will be able to tell their keys apart. There at hats and animal-themed jokes aplenty too.

Before snapping, these crackers will help give your dinner table a bucolic woodland style that children will love. They come in four designs, of which our favourite is the bright red fox, and are tied with shiny gold ribbons. Have a browse of the rest of Meri Meri’s eclectic range too, as we were drawn to several boxes.

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The White Company luxury Christmas crackers, set of six: £45, The White Company

Give your Yuletide dinner table a snowy aesthetic with these classy crackers from luxury British brand The White Company, adorned with silver snowflakes and tied with glittery silver ribbons. Handmade in England, inside you’ll find a joke, a sturdy silver hat and a high-quality gift. Surprise trinkets include a mini grater, star-shaped cookie cutter, wooden dice, wooden honey drizzler, wooden scoop or kraft paper packet of wildflower seeds – all of which we’d love to receive.

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Selfridges gingerbread man deluxe Christmas crackers, set of six: £18, Selfridges

The Great British Bake Off may be over for another year but Britain’s love of baking never dies. Bakers are rushing to get their floury mitts on these original crackers shaped and decorated like smiley gingerbread men, so hurry before they sell out. Every cracker contains a baking-inspired gift, including a mini whisk, wooden spoon, bottle opener, and bell, tree and snowman cookie cutters. There’s a joke and a hat for everybody too.

Buy now

Hotel Chocolat rather large Christmas cracker: £36 each, Hotel Chocolat

Before you say “But that’s not a real cracker!”, rest assured that it snaps and bangs, so long as you’re prepared to put some welly into it! One for the centerpiece, this marvellous monster of a cracker from British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat is, indeed, "rather large" at over two feet. Pull it open and enjoy an explosion of 12 paper hats, jokes and 40 scrumptious chocolates in a wide range of flavours and shapes, from creamy milk Rudolphs to luxuriously dark snowflakes, all individually wrapped in paper for freshness. It’s pricey, but a real treat for bigger parties.

Buy now

Wrendale Designs luxury Christmas crackers, six pack: £20, Wrendale

These quintessentially English crackers from Wrendale are made from high quality textured board printed with a British wildlife design and finished with chic ribbons and bells. They look far more expensive than they are and are filled with lovely domed glass magnets based on award-winning artist Hannah Dale’s original watercolour paintings of animals. Never fear, the hats and jokes are in there too. For the £20 price tag, this box of crackers is a steal, and you’ll be supporting a family-run Lincolnshire business, too.

Buy now

Waitrose Christmas crackers for your dog or cat: £4 each, Waitrose

Dog and cat owners can treat their most loyal friends to a Christmas cracker of their own this year. Waitrose recently announced its decision to phase out plastic toys in crackers, and has impressed us even more with these bang-free gems that will involve your pet in the festivities without scaring them.

The dog cracker contains a bright green ball of rope and the cat cracker contains a little rope mouse with a rattan tail, both of which will offer hours of amusement for your fur babies. Obviously, your pet won’t care what their cracker looks like, but if you do, you’ll enjoy the stylish dog and cat prints and bright red ribbons.

Buy for dogs now
Buy for cats now

The verdict: Christmas crackers 2019

Toast’s Christmas crackers stood out to us for their eco-credentials and characterful gifts unlike any we’ve seen elsewhere. If your purse strings are tighter, Lakeland’s bingo crackers will appeal to all ages.

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