Once many years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend a Christmas in London. I fell in love with so many of their holiday meal traditions — roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, sticky toffee pudding for dessert, and of course, lots of booze. But the true secret to a happy holiday meal – no matter what kind of tense family dynamics may be present — is to give everyone a Christmas cracker. I’ve started seeing them in stores here in the U.S. (I love these from Pier 1) and have added them to our must-have list. Here’s how they work: Everyone gets a cracker on their plate, and at some point in the meal (I like to do it early on), each person takes a turn “challenging” the person sitting next to them. You have your neighbor pull one end of the cracker while you pull the other. Eventually the cracker tears open with a loud “pop” and out spills the goodies inside. Everyone gets a surprise toy, a joke and a paper crown hat. It’s really hard to be grumpy when everyone is wearing silly hats and reading corny jokes out loud. In England, Christmas Crackers are serious business. These ones at Harrods cost nearly $500 and come with silver “bling” inside. I’m happy with our plastic tops and paper hats.
What holiday traditions have you adopted? I’d love to hear about them. — Angela M.