“A Christmas what?”
“A Christmas Cracker.”
It was a few days before Christmas on a cold evening in the North of Holland and I was desperately trying to explain the very English tradition of Christmas Crackers to my Dutch family-in-law. A task which I was quickly discovering is very hard to do without sounding like a complete and total mad man…
“It’s a kind of long tube thing…”
… Mainly because the Dutch don’t have the tradition of Christmas Crackers…
“…and two people pull an end each…”
…and when you try to explain it to someone who has never heard of it before, it does sound like a slightly odd tradition.
“Then it goes bang and you get a small gift, a paper hat and a bad joke.”
Or maybe I was just doing a very bad job of explaining it. The look on their faces seemed to suggest that that was a possibility.
I was not used to this. Normally I am the one being confused by Dutch traditions and thinking they sound completely mad as some poor Dutch person tries to explain them to me. Now the situation had been reversed and my world turned upside down. Now I was the crazy one.
“Does the joke have to be bad?” My father-in-law asked.
“Yes. That is very important. That way everyone can groan together about how bad the joke is and the person reading it can’t be blamed for telling it wrong,” I answered, explaining the deep psychological mind games behind Christmas cracker jokes.
“And you have to wear the paper hat?” asked my brother-in-law.
“Of course. You wear it during dinner,” I answered as if pleading them to understand.
“I… don’t know… but you do.” To be honest my argument might have been losing some ground.
There was a short pause.
“Very strange people those English,” commented my mother-in-law.
I decided they were probably right. There was no point denying it. It is a very weird tradition that proves the English can be as strange as the Dutch.
Besides, I was never going to win. It was three against one.