With the passing of the Christmas holiday, comes the inevitable celebration of New Year’s Eve.

Although there has not been another year in re­cent history that we would rather say goodbye to than 2020, ushering in this New Year will be done much differently than past New Year’s Eves.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the traditional Bos­ton First Night Celebra­tion will be a virtual experience only this year.

If you want to witness the iconic Times Square ball drop this year, you will have to watch it on television, as there are no in-person crowds allowed to gather in Times Square.

Because of new restrictions set by Gov. Charlie Baker, attendance at gatherings are limited, and social gathering and parties are discouraged to les­sen the spread of CO­VID-19.

Without these traditional New Year’s Eve activities, it seems that most of us will be spending a quiet New Year’s Eve at home.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it has proven that we have become adaptable when celebrating holidays and events during this past year.

This year’s stay-at-home New Year’s Eve could in­clude playing board games, watching movies, rocking in the New Year with Ryan Seacrest, or hitting the sheets early to get a jump on the start of 2021.

Whichever New Year’s Eve plan you choose, start off your evening with a celebratory dinner. Cook a special meal or order take out. Open a bottle of bubbly (champagne for adults, sparkling juice for the un­der-21 crowd), and add a POP of fun at your holiday table with festive party crackers.

Party crackers are fun and inexpensive party fa­vors that add extra excitement to any dinner table. If you are not familiar with a party cracker, it is a wrapped, surprise gift that makes a bang, pop or cracking noise when you open it.

Originally known as Christmas Crackers, the idea for this fun party favor started in England in the 1840’s.

London candy maker, Tom Smith, was looking for a new way to market his candies. While on a trip to Paris, he was inspired by the festive, french Bon Bons he saw that were wrapped in pretty paper and sold as Christmas gifts.

When Smith returned back to London, he packed his own candies in pretty paper and included a ro­mantic phrase or riddle in each wrapped sweet, but the public's response was lackluster at best.

Some say that Smith pondered why his marketing attempts were not the success he had hoped for, while he sat in front of a roaring fire. The crackling of the fire kept distracting him from his thoughts, until he decided that the crackling noise was just the attention getter he was looking for to market his new packaging idea.

With the help of the Brock’s Fireworks Com­pany, Smith was able to retooled his idea into an “ex­plosive” gift packaging that had never been seen before.

This innovative, new pac­kaging was nicknamed “co­saques,” because the small bang or popping noise that was made when you open­ed the cracker packaging was reminiscent of the Cossack soldiers that rode on horseback, firing guns into the air.

The “bang” noise, and the addition of a small toy or novelty gift to the crac­kers, proved to be a retail success for Smith.

Smith and his sons eventually expanded the idea to make crackers for oth­er holidays at many different price points, including an expensive, high-end cracker that contained a silver box with a piece of gold or silver jewelry in­side.

Soon crackers were used to celebrate special events like weddings, graduations and birthdays.

Specialty lines were also made for bachelors, Suf­fragettes, war heros, and even the Royal Family coronation.

Today, the British Royal Family still has specialty crackers made to celebrate special events.

Most modern day crackers are made from short, cardboard tubes that are wrapped in colorful, themed paper and fastened at both ends. When the cracker is pulled from both ends at the same time, it opens with a bang caused by a paper strip on the inside that has silver fulminate (an explosive chemical compound) on one side, and sandpaper on the other. The friction caused from pulling both ends activates the compound and causes the quick “bang.”

Inside of the cracker you will often find a party hat, a small toy or gift and a joke or riddle.

Specialty crackers can include different, themed items like Game Day sports socks, 4th of July barbecue items, or ro­man­tic, wedding day items.

Some crackers that are made specifically for events like New Year’s Eve, come in fun shapes or contain confetti, which can be a fun and festive way to start a celebration, but can also be messy, so be prepared for the clean up!

Party crackers are relatively inexpensive, costing approximately $8 to $15 for a box of 6 to 12 crackers.

If you prefer to customize your crackers by making them yourself, there are plenty of DIY instructual videos available on Youtube or visit www.housebeautiful.com/uk/make-your-own-christmas-crackers for instructions on how to create your own show “popping” fun.

While we all prepare to leave the havoc, tragedy, and uncertainty of 2020 behind us, an at home celebration is the perfect way to welcome the hope and promise of 2021. Start­ing your celebration with traditional party crackers is a sure way to ring in the New Year with a bang!

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