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The perfect Christmas crackers have to delight on two fronts. Firstly, they should look gorgeous, after all, they will be the final festive flourishes on your beautifully set dinner table. Secondly, the excitement shouldn't end with the bang - the treats hidden inside need to be just right for your guests.
Gone are the days when all Christmas crackers were much of a muchness, stuffed simply with a paper hat, joke and a tiny bit of plastic tat. Now shops are filled with a whole range of luxury and novelty crackers, designed to delight guests of different ages and with different interests.
But which will give you the most bang for your buck? We've scoured the shops, from M&S and John Lewis to Etsy, to find the Christmas crackers that garner the best reviews and are most popular with shoppers.
Best Christmas crackers for family fun
Elves Luxury Christmas Crackers, set of 6 | £26 at Nancy & Betty
Also available at Not On The High Street
The cheeky smiles of these rosy cheeked elves are sure to delight diners both young and old. The plastic-free gifts include an origami set, badge, marbles, double wooden pencil sharpener, crayons and chalks, a bouncy ball and a star cutter.
Also inside each cracker is a gold paper crown, a joke and, of course, the snap. The crackers are recyclable (apart from the bows, which are great for crafting) and the makers promise that one tree will be planted for every box bought.
Woodland Creature Large Crackers, set of 8 | £25 at Meri Meri
These crackers come in four woodland designs: a reindeer, fox, badger and owl, each of which is decorated with gold foil detail and a scarf made from ribbon or tulle. Each cracker contains a party hat, joke and an etched wooden animal (a fox, rabbit, reindeer, beaver, squirrel or badger).
Xylophone Musical Christmas Crackers, set of 8 | £25 at John Lewis & Partners
These colourful musical crackers are a bestseller on the John Lewis website. Each one contains a hat, snap, joke and a xylophone piece. Once the recyclable crackers have all been pulled, one person can take on the role of conductor and direct everyone to use their mallet and numbered xylophone piece to play a tune from the musical sheet.
Family Heritage Recyclable Christmas Crackers, set of 12 | £15 at Marks & Spencer
These traditional Santa-adorned crackers will be loved by keen bakers, as each one contains a cookie cutter in shapes including: hearts, stars, gingerbread men, flowers and teddy bears. The fun doesn't stop there as the fully recyclable crackers also contain a hat, joke and a 'Name 5 Things' game.
Eco Christmas Crackers, set of 6 - by HotCocoaEcoLiving | £15 at Etsy
If you like your table to have a Scandi-feel, these eco-friendly Kraft card crackers will fit perfectly. The crackers come in recyclable tissue paper and packaging. Each one contains a classic motto, joke, party hat, snap and a plastic free novelty gift, from card Christmas trees to origami Santas.
One shopper who bought them last year wrote in a review: "Fantastic! Beautiful eco chic crackers with some of the best gifts I've ever had in a cracker, feeling even more virtuous as it's all recyclable. Mind you I'll be keeping some as additional little Christmas decorations for next year. And of course it includes wonderfully cheesy jokes."
Gingerbread Bowling Crackers, set of 6 | £19.99 at Lakeland
These candy cane festooned recyclable crackers contain a game that can be kept and played with for years to come. Each one contains a gingerbread person ‘pin', as well as a snap, joke and hat. The set also comes with a bowling alley felt board and a white bowling ball, plus a neat storage pouch to keep the game in.
Robin Crackers, set of 12 | £15 at John Lewis & Partners
This classic cracker design contain fillers to delight a gathering of different ages, with tweezers and a bottle opener for grown-ups; an activity sheet and yoyo for kids; and a bookmark, mini dice, mini notebook, magic tricks and pencils, for those fo any age. Each cracker also contains a tissue hat, motto and snap. All of John Lewis' crackers are recyclable, including the paper hats and mottos.
Bee Friendly Seed Christmas Crackers, set of 6 | £14.99 (Was £19.99) at Lakeland
Whether your guests have a garden or just a window box, these recyclable crackers contain a nice surprise that will brighten their spring. As well as a joke and paper hat, inside each one is a pack of borage seeds, which will grow into beautiful blue flowers that bees absolutely love. Don't worry if you're not green fingered as there are handy instructions on the packaging to ensure you sow your seeds at the optimum time so they’re ready for the bees (and you) to enjoy in late spring.
Best Christmas crackers for grown-up guests
Hazel Gardiner Large Flower Crackers, set of 6 | £25 at Meri Meri
Created in collaboration with London-based floral designer Hazel Gardiner, these luxurious crackers feature flowers crafted from pink, red and yellow tissue paper, with gold metallic thread centres, golden foil leaves and gold foil detail bordered scallop edges, Tied with pink velvet ribbons, each cracker contains a joke, gold paper hat and a wooden brooch with gold foil detail.
Classic With Linen Ribbon, set of 6 | £45 at The Little Green Cracker Company
Also available in red gingham print at Selfridges
Each of these stylish crackers contains a hat, joke and one of the following luxury gifts: a scented tealight from St Eval; a tiny pot of jam from Waterhouse Fayre; a solid shampoo bar from Natural Spa; a matchbox of wildflower seedballs from Seedball; two plastic-free teabags from Bird and Blend; and a packet of pea shoot seeds from New Leaf nurseries.
Not only are they made from 100% recycled (and recyclable) card but they are tied with linen ribbon, which is completely biodegradable and has a much lower environmental footprint than cotton. Plus, it looks great when re-used on gifts or to tie up seedlings in the garden come spring.
Snow Globe Gin Liqueur Christmas Crackers, set of 4 | £32 (Was £40) at Marks and Spencer
Have yourself a very merry little Christmas with these boozy bauble crackers. Each one contains a paper hat, joke, a sprinkling of confetti and either a clementine snow globe gin liqueur bauble and light clementine tonic, or a spiced sugar plum snow globe gin liqueur bauble and light Indian tonic water. Cheers!
Piccadilly Crackers, set of 6 | £60 at Fortnum & Mason
For keen cooks you can't surpass a Fortnum & Mason cracker, as alongside the usual hat and joke, they each contain a recipe from Fortnum's Cook Book paired with a miniature kitchen utensil to use while you cook.
Each cracker is filled with one of the following: Rice Pudding with Strawberry Jam Recipe and a nutmeg grater; Shortbread Recipe and a cookie cutter; Highland Scramble Recipe and a lotus scoop; Hot Chocolate with Salted Caramel Marshmallow Recipe and a whisk; Welsh Rarebit Toasties recipe and a salt scoop; Marigold Spritz Cocktail Recipe and a lemon reamer.
Luxury Marbled Opulence Crackers, set of 8 | £25 at Marks and Spencer
A besteller at M&S, many shoppers have commented in reviews about how nice these crackers will look on their Christmas table, with one writing that "they look a million dollars". The recyclable gold foiled crackers feature an elegant marbled design with a gold ribbon tie and each one contains a hat, joke and game task as one of the following gifts: a bottle opener, a cookie cutter, a trolley keyring, a wine-glass charm, a spirit measure, a pair of nail clippers, a metal ice cube or a metal funnel.