Pop goes the Popper

December 11, 2014 · Education ·

What can you do with three hundred toilet paper rolls?

For the past few months, I have been on a mission to collect as many empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls as possible. I sent out emails to the CHS staff, I enlisted the help of my family, and I even asked visiting friends to bring all their toilet paper rolls with them to Connecticut. I got a few laughs and odd looks, but I really had a very good reason for all this toilet paper roll madness: our annual Holiday Popper family program! Every year, families have the opportunity to come to CHS to make their own poppers out of the cardboard tubes (and other supplies) to help celebrate the holidays.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPoppers, or crackers, are traditional British party favors dating back to the Victorian Era. In the mid 1840s, a London pastry chef named Tom Smith got the idea for crackers from the French holiday custom of wrapping sugared almonds and other sweets in a twist of colored paper. Smith developed an early version of the cracker with romantic messages inside (called “Kiss Mottos”), however it wasn’t until Smith developed a cracker that “popped” when it was pulled apart that the cracker became popular.

IMG_12172Crackers traditionally include a paper crown, a joke or riddle, and a small prize or toy. Children and adults at CHS included these items in their hand-made poppers, as well as confetti, bead necklaces, stickers, and candy. The favors are stuffed inside the toilet paper roll, and rolled up inside brightly colored wrapping paper (along with the all important cracker snap) and tied with ribbon on the ends. The cracker snap is two thin pieces of cardboard sealed together with a small amount of silver fulminate. When the cardboard is pulled apart, the friction between the cardboard produces a small explosion making the “snapping” sound (similar to popping a balloon) and causing the popper to pop open.

This program has proven to be a family favorite. Year after year, parents and children love making poppers for holiday celebrations, New Years celebrations, or for festive party favors. Many parents and grandparents remember opening store-bought poppers during their childhood, and children of all ages enjoy customizing poppers to give to different friends and family members. Poppers are fun to open, but they’re even more fun to make!

If you missed our popper program this year, start saving up your toilet paper rolls and join us next December. In the meantime, check out our Upcoming Events page to see what new free family programs are coming up at CHS. Happy Holidays!

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