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Christmas cracked

‘Christmas Day is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ’. So why, Wikipedia, does Jesus think I need a plastic harmonica? Or a nail brush? Or a small bag of marbles? It’s a bad joke – wait, he thinks I need that, too.

To be fair, the nail brush comes in handy. And to a three-year-old, the harmonica is a virtual pulling tool. Marbles… well, there’s never really a reason (oh Jesus, you tease us). But if you compare, let’s say, an Xbox 360 with a crayon it is easy to see why your average Christmas cracker gift is readily discarded (though if someone out there can fit an Xbox into a cracker it is sure to change everything).

Christmas cracker gifts
Lady Gaga decomposed.

And, OK, so they’re meant to be a novelty. Nobody busts open a cracker only to exit the table in disgust declaring, ‘How do you expect a plastic harmonica to further my music career? I’m leaving!’ Besides, your average eight-year-old is more than happy with an inexplicably small water gun not big enough to drown a gerbil.

House of Fraser has useless tat for kids/fans of incompetent crayons down to a tee, their £6 crackers offering such trinkets as a large plastic paperclip, mini sellotape dispenser and (of course) that small bag of marbles. If retailers really want to get children’s attention, why not mix things up a bit? Pop in some Morse code, spelling ‘SANTA DOES NOT EXIST’, for instance. Or a Brussel sprout (I may have got this tip off festive genius Kirstie Allsopp’s Homemade Christmas but I can’t say).

What about the adults? Plastic whistles and monkey-shaped erasers are all well and good when you’re six but what if you’re 36 and holding a sophisticated festive meal for acquaintances you want to impress? Fear not, says Marks and Spencer (‘This isn’t just a plastic whistle’ was never going to work). Their selection contains not so much gifts but office stationery. And quite so – there’s nothing like pulling a calculator out of a cracker and starting on your taxes early in view of the Christmas turkey, eh M&S?

But if this industrious image fails to tempt, Harrods aims to make you look like a true pimp. For a month’s rent in Hammersmith you can ‘win’ a cigar leather case, Swarovski crystals whistle keyring or even a diamond encrusted padlock. Perfect for, say, P-Diddy. Not so much your auntie Carol. I don’t care if she drizzles balsamic vinegar over everything.

Harrods: accessorising pimps since 1824

Tesco has achieved the perfect middle ground between plastic harmonica and leather cigar case, in my opinion. For £20 (OK, in the sale) these crackers contain photo frames, a candle and playing cards. Normal yet nice. Practical yet pleasant. Bear Grylls yet Eamonn Holmes.

And my Christmas cracker gifts this year? A red cellophane fish that tells your fortune (options included ‘fickle’, ‘restless’ and ‘constipated’) and – you guessed it – a small bag of marbles acquired at the office party. Last seen rolling across Zizzi floorboards. Guess it beats being nailed to a cross. Nightmahr.

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