10 best Christmas crackers full of gifts you’ll actually keep

·10-min read
We’ve included  pet-themed offerings too, so your furry friends can get in on the fun   (iStock/The Independent)
We’ve included pet-themed offerings too, so your furry friends can get in on the fun (iStock/The Independent)

Ready to take your festive table to the next level with one of the best Christmas crackers? Then you’ll want to check out our top picks for 2021.

Thankfully things have evolved since the days of plastic puzzles and lame jokes, and you can really up your game when it comes to choosing crackers that friends and family will enjoy. From sweet treats to alcohol, fill-your-own and even ones for pets, there really is something for everyone.

It’s never too early to get cracking (sorry, not sorry!) and plan your Christmas table, and often your choice of crackers can also inspire your colour scheme or provide that perfect finishing touch.

You’ll want to keep in mind how many guests you’re likely to have – it can get expensive if you’re choosing luxury crackers for a large table – and consider the type of gifts that will be most appreciated.

Too busy to shop around? Don’t fear, as we’ve done the hard work for you.

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How we tested

We selected our favourite designs from the huge choice of crackers that’s out there, all at varied price points so you can invest in the best, splurge on some show-stoppers or opt for something a little more affordable.

We looked at the packaging, price and size of the crackers, as well as the contents, to ensure there weren’t any disappointing surprises – after all, there’s nothing worse than a poor snap or cheap plastic toy inside. Only the best designs have made it onto our list, and, if we do say so ourselves, this little lot really are a load of crackers! Enjoy!

The best Christmas crackers for 2021 are:

  • Best for nostalgic design – John Lewis & Partners twelve days of Christmas crackers: £20, Johnlewis.com

  • Best for adult festivities – Haysmith’s Gin crackers: £9.99, Aldi.co.uk

  • Best for design conscious tablescapers –Gisela Graham William Morris crackers: £20, Candh.co.uk

  • Best for a magical touch – George Home luxury diamond shape crackers: £8, Asda.com

  • Best for personalised crackers – The Danes eco friendly DIY cracker kit: £11.49, Thedanes.co.uk

  • Best for affordable luxury – Nancy and Betty fable forest luxury crackers: £36, Nancyandbetty.com

  • Best for chocolate lovers – Hotel Chocolat mini crackers: £17, Hotelchocolat.com

  • Best for good family fun – Talking Tables botanical nutcrackers: £18, Talkingtables.co.uk

  • Best for little ones – Tesco gnome crackers: £6, Tesco.com

  • Best for family fur babies – Cox and Cox handmade purrfect cat cracker: £10.50, Coxandcox.co.uk

John Lewis & Partners twelve days of Christmas crackers

Best: For nostalgic design

Rating: 8/10

Half the fun of these crackers is picking which number to have – from the nine ladies dancing to the five gold rings, you’ll be reminded of the classic Christmas carol that dates back to the 1700s. The illustrations come in fun colours, giving them a more modern look than you might expect from such a traditional theme. Inside you’ll find the usual magic tricks, tweezers, money clip and bottle opener, along with other little treats such as a cookie cutter and mini playing cards. We like the fact there’s 12 in a pack too – a good choice for larger families.

Although these are currently out of stock, you can still sign up for email notifications to be told when they become available again.

Buy now £20.00, Johnlewis.com

Haysmith’s Gin crackers

Best: For adult festivities

Rating: 10/10

Christmas is a time for celebrations and what better way to get the festivities started than with a tipple or two? This fun selection of mini crackers from Haysmith’s Gin is ideal for adults who are after a little more from their cracker than a pair of tweezers or a keyring. There are four crackers in the box, and each one contains a mini bottle of premium British gin in a different flavour. In the name of providing a fair analysis, we tested all four and our favourite by far was the rhubarb and ginger, although we can also recommend the remaining three: hand-steeped sloe gin, Seville orange and Persian lime, and dry gin. These are great for accompaniments to your festive meal, drinking games or ingredients for Christmas cocktails.

These crackers will be available to buy from 8 November.

Buy now £9.99, Aldi.co.uk

Gisela Graham William Morris crackers

Best: For design-conscious tablescapers

Rating: 9/10

If you’d like your Christmas table to look like a work of art, then turn your attention to these William Morris-inspired crackers for the finishing touch to your place settings. Known for his intricate use of patterns and rich colour, William Morris was a pioneer of the arts and crafts movement, and you can see his designs used on each cracker, along with a glossy finish, gold detailing and top-and-tail ribbons. Obviously to make it into our ”best” round-up there needs to be more to them than simply good design, and you won’t be disappointed by the selection of handy items, from tweezers and keyrings to a mini playing card set. At £19.99 and with six in the box, we think these are pretty good value.

Buy now £20.00, Candh.co.uk

George Home luxury diamond shape crackers

Best: For adding a magical touch

Rating: 8/10

Can you get a more luxurious-looking cracker than one shaped like a diamond? Not only do these little beauties make a change from the normal cracker, but they’re small enough to pop in a bowl for a fancy table setting, or string from a tree. They still have the usual snap when pulled, and contents include keyrings, dice and a padlock among other gifts. They’re a great option if you have a lot of guests to cater for as they won’t take up much room on your table, don’t cost the earth, and they look much more expensive than their £8 price tag suggests.

These will be available from 31 October.

Buy now £8.00, Asda.com

The Danes eco friendly DIY cracker kit

Best: For personalised crackers

Rating: 9/10

Like to go that extra mile with your Christmas table? Then make sure your crackers don’t let you down and go for individual, homemade versions where you can choose your own mini gift for each recipient. This eco-friendly kit contains everything you need to make 12 crackers, from coloured tissue, brown kraft cracker outers, snaps, paper hats and jokes. What’s nice about this idea is that you can get really creative with your gift ideas – from a cinema or cake date voucher to seeds, scratch cards, chocolate truffles or pretty much anything you can think of. Feel good about the fact that everything provided is biodegradable, reusable or recycled too – plus, there’ll be no more disappointed faces at a gift they’ll never use.

Buy now £11.49, Thedanes.co.uk

Nancy and Betty fable forest luxury crackers

Best: For affordable luxury

Rating: 8/10

We love the charming forest-inspired illustrations on these green and white crackers, which come as a set of six, with sweet bunnies, owls, hedgehogs and holly on, but it’s not only this that sprung them onto our list. A step above your average cracker, these are larger than a normal design, made with extra-thick paper and finished with ribbon: in short they feel like a more luxurious option. Gifts include things like a wooden honey drizzler, mini strawberry jam, wooden plant labels and even a wooden yoyo for the kids. They aren’t as pricey as some out there, but enough that your guests will know these aren’t your bog-standard crackers.

Buy now £36.00, Nancyandbetty.com

Hotel Chocolat mini crackers

Best: For chocolate lovers

Rating: 9/10

Whether you use these mini crackers for place-settings or to give your Christmas tree some extra pizazz, we think the fact they are from Hotel Chocolat will add a special touch to your festivities, without too much of a hefty price tag. Each of the 10 crackers has one of five premium chocolates inside – our favourite was the caramel cheesecake – and a nice touch is the “reserved for” spot where you can write your guest’s name on one side of the cracker. Yes, they’re teeny, but good things come in small packages, as they say, and as well as being super stylish, they’ll take up much less space on your table. Beautifully indulgent.

Buy now £17.00, Hotelchocolat.com

Talking Tables botanical nutcrackers

Best: For good family fun

Rating: 8/10

How many of you love a silly game at Christmas? Us too, and these kid-friendly crackers are designed for exactly that. The six colourful nutcrackers each include a card for a game of “Who Am I?”, where you ask yes and no questions to guess the name of the famous person. As if that isn’t enough, one side of the card is blank so you can make up your own names for people, too. A good bit of fun that will get you guessing and laughing round the table.

Buy now £18.00, Talkingtables.co.uk

Tesco gnome crackers

Best: For little ones

Rating: 7/10

Why not keep crackers off the table, hang them on the tree and then get the children to go and pick one to have with their meal? If that idea appeals to you, then these Tesco designs might float your boat and will probably be appreciated by the kids, too. Made in the shape of little Gonk gnomes in traditional green and red outfits, these crackers can be hung from a tree – ideal if the kids have their own mini tree in their bedroom – or just popped on the table for the big Christmas dinner. Are they the most luxurious? No. But they’re fun and make a change from the usual cracker style.

These will be available online from 1 November.

Buy now £6.00, Tesco.com

Cox and Cox handmade purrfect cat cracker

Best: For family fur babies

Rating: 8/10

We thought we’d end our round-up with something a little different – this cracker is made purely for your pet. We tested one for cats, but there’s also one for dogs, so no need for anyone to feel left out. What on earth does a cat cracker contain, we hear you ask… well, folks, we’re sure your much-loved kitty will appreciate the new toy mouse, while owners get… wait for it… a pet-themed joke! We love that they don’t make a bang when pulled, so as not to scare any animals, and the paw-print design is simple yet effective. A little bit extra maybe, but can you really put a price on how much you love your pet?

Buy now £10.50, Coxandcox.co.uk

The verdict: Christmas crackers

Pulling the twelve days crackers from John Lewis felt like a real treat and we loved that they have a nostalgic design but in bright, modern colours. Add to that there’s 12 in a pack for £20, making them great value, and we couldn’t help but give them our number one spot.

If you’re after a more traditional cracker, that the kids can pull too, then the William Morris design from Gisela Graham looks pretty swish, making these our runners-up. After something a little more fun? The nutcrackers from Talking Tables go the extra mile with a game to keep you all smiling round the table – an affordable buy that could provide a lot of laughs on the day.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on chocolate and other Christmas essentials, try the links below:

Looking to go all out? Read our review of the best luxury Christmas crackers

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