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Clever Alternatives to Christmas Crackers – Eco Friendly Options

alternatives to christmas cracker

Whilst the magic of Christmas is mainly found in spending time with loved ones, there are several physical items that epitomise Christmas time; the Christmas tree, a wreath on the front door and crackers on the table at Christmas dinner.

However a lot of us are looking to have a more sustainable holiday season, and Christmas crackers are notoriously bad for the environment. Lets take a look at some of the alternatives to Christmas crackers, that keep this tradition alive without ruining the planet!

Are Christmas Crackers Really That Bad?

Housed in shiny, often glittery, un-recyclable cardboard is usually a plastic novelty toy that invariably gets thrown away straight from the table, and ‘crowns’ that are often made from tissue paper that also does not recycle. 

Did you know that tissue paper can’t be recycled? I only just discovered this! For more information and tips check out our guide on how to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly.

So we really need to ditch the traditional crackers and find a more enviromentally friendly alternatives to Christmas crackers.

So What Are The Alternatives To Christmas Crackers?

1. Reusable Gift Box

A gift box with a small present or chocolate keeps the fun of receiving a surprise when sitting down to dinner, but without destroying the box unlike pulling a traditional cracker. They are also very pretty and provide that addition to your Christmas table setting and decorations that traditional crackers offer.

The boxes can be reused year after year, and some are even made from plain brown cardboard and so are fully recyclable – this makes it a particularly eco friendly Christmas cracker alternative.

Last update on 2022-01-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Ideas for Christmas Cracker Gifts

OK, so you’ve got your beautiful and eco friendly Christmas crackers alternative box, but what are you going to put in it that isn’t plastic junk that no one really wants and ends up in the bin by boxing day?

Here are our top X ideas for Christmas cracker gifts:

  1. Chocolate: Individual chocolates that are foil wrapped are ideal for these alternatives to Christmas crackers – the foil can be recycled and chocolate coins or little chocolate Santas are very in keeping with a traditional Christmas
  2. Wooden Christmas tree decoration: there are many options for little decorations that would fit into a gift box or other options for alternatives to Christmas crackers. My favourite are the little painted wooden figures, but for the more crafty amongst you there are options of plain wooden decorations that you can decorate and personalise yourself. What a lovely reminder every year of your special Christmas time all together hanging on your tree.
  3. Musical bells: For the more musical family (or not – I’m sure much fun can be had playing badly!) there is the options of providing small musical instruments for your guests – either bells or whistles will do, but make sure each one plays a different note! Then all you need is some simple music and you can play out your favourite carols and Christmas songs, perfecting your routine year after year!
  4. A game: To avoid having to buy new stuff if you are trying to reduce your spending and carbon footprint, then you could simply include a written instruction or clue for a game. It could be a word to act out in Charades, a song title to be hummed for others to guess or a general knowledge question! You can keep it as simple or be as creative as you like! These alternative Christmas crackers are sure to become a tradition as memories are made playing the games!
  5. Soap: A small soap bar would fit nicely inside a gift box and continues our environmentally friendly theme leading to reduced use of hand wash in plastic bottles. It is also a universally useful gift so will not go to waste and you can carefully select the scent for each guest making it personal and thoughtful.
  6. Wind-up toy: Have no end of fun with a set of wind up toys inside your alternatives to Christmas crackers. Race them down the middle of the middle of the dinner table and the winner gets the last roast potato! Can be used year after year for your annual Christmas races!
  7. Pieces of a puzzle: Encourage some teamwork and provide after dinner or between course entertainment with each person having a piece/pieces of something to build – a jigsaw would be the obvious choice but it could be anything from Lego to Jenga!
  8. A photo: A family photo always goes down a treat and will be displayed for years to come. Photos could mini ones in a little frame or perhaps a keyring or coaster. A beautiful, thoughtful, alternatives to Christmas crackers that will be loved by family members.

Last update on 2022-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

alternatives to christmas crackers

3. Reusable Christmas Hats

If it wouldn’t be Christmas in your house without festive headwear whilst you tuck into your turkey, then an alternative to single-use non-recyclable tissue paper crowns, is re-usable Christmas hats or headbands. This way you can get use out of them year after year, plus the photos will be hilarious

They could also replace the need for a gift if you didn’t find any inspiration on our ideas for Christmas cracker gifts list.

4. The Joke!

Probably the only environmentally friendly part of the traditional cracker, this tradition can remain untouched! Simply write different jokes on recyclable paper and spread the Christmas joy! This article containing the best and worst Christmas cracker jokes is a good place to start to find the perfect jokes to tickle your guests!

I’lll get you started:

‘What do snowmen have for breakfast?’


5. Eco friendly Christmas Crackers To Buy

If you’re not feeling very creative or you’re short of time, then there are plastic-free eco friendly Christmas crackers, that make great alternatives to Christmas crackers that dont recycle. So if you’re short of time and inspiration, or it just wouldn’t be Christmas in your house without hearing that bang, then these are probably your best option for alternatives to Christmas crackers.

Most of them contain very stylish cardboard Christmas decorations to be assembled and will provide an activity as well as sustainable décor to be used year after year. These eco friendly Christmas crackers also come in beautiful paired-back designs that will add a touch of class to your table setting.

6. Make your own

These are great alternatives to Christmas crackers for those of you looking to reuse materials and items you already have and to add a truly personal touch to Christmas. In making them yourself you can ensure they are truly environmentally friendly and it will be more cost effective than other options.

You will need some basic craft supplies, such as empty toilet roll tubes, recyclable paper and recyclable Sellotape (did you know that Sellotape is not recyclable so if you use it to wrap presents then you risk ‘contaminating’ your recyclable paper and it will not be recycled)

Check out this video for a quick and easy guide to how to make your own eco friendly Christmas crackers:

So there you have it, our guide  to alternatives to Christmas crackers, to make sure you still have the magic of a traditional Christmas but with the peace of mind that you have the most eco friendly Christmas crackers possible.

I would love to hear if you tried any of these tips in the comments below, or if you have any more ideas to add to our list of ideas for Christmas cracker gifts then please add them too!

Happy Christmas!


Jane is a busy mum of two who is always looking for life hacks to make her life easier! She enjoys crafting, bargain hunting and is trying to reduce her carbon footprint one step at a time!

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