HOW DO you like your crackers?
Fancy or fun-filled? Traditional or quirky?
If you are finding it hard to choose from the sleighloads on offer this Christmas, never fear, the Evening Times annual consumer test is here.
We teamed up with panto stars Karen Dunbar and Des Clarke to get their verdicts on the best buys this festive season.
Currently appearing as the Fairy Godmother and Buttons respectively in Cinderella at the King's, the duo got pulling to find the best.
Ann Fotheringham reports.
ALDI: 12 CHRISTMAS CRACKERS £3.99... 6/10
Things get off to a bad start when the first cracker pulled fails to snap satisfyingly. Both look perplexed. "No bang," says Des. They try a second one. "Still no bang," frowns Des. "But it has a thing."
"Can you be a bit more specific?" asks Karen.
"I don't know, can I?" says Des, looking bewildered. He works out the little plastic green and purple trinket is a spinning top, and spins it on the floor, sending it off into the corner of the room.
"That was quite a good spin, actually," adds Karen.
The hat is bright yellow and a little thin for our reviewers' liking. "It makes me look like Bart Simpson," says Des. "And it's a bit tracing paperish," says Karen.
The joke gets the thumbs up. "What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?" asks Des. "Tinselitis!" shouts Karen, triumphantly. "See, I knew the joke, but I liked the joke. A classic Christmas gag."
Des adds: "There is also a bonus charade on the joke - Poker Face, Lady Gaga - how would you mime Poker Face?"
There is silence. "You'd have to just jab your granny in the face for ages," says Karen, helpfully.
DEBENHAMS: 12 FAMILY CRACKERS £20 (REDUCED TO £10 ONLINE) ... 6/10
The pretty red berry design wins the duo's approval and there is a bang, albeit more of a "muted snap".
"Ooh, I like the sewing kit," marvels Karen, pocketing it in her massive dress. "Great for keeping the costume tidy. The hat's not great. What's going on with the hats? Is it a bad year for hats?"
"What did one elevator say to another? I think I'm coming down with something," reads Des. "Not brilliant. Seems like all the attention has gone on the luxury gift and the rest of it has suffered. There's a brainteaser puzzle, which is quite good, though."
MARKS AND SPENCER: 6 Luxury Crackers £25...9/10 The price causes consternation. "TWENTY FIVE POUNDS?" gasps Karen. "Shut the front door. That's about four quid a cracker. But they look beautiful and that's the best bang so far."
The gift confuses her momentarily. "Is it an electric fag? A spirit level, pen? Oh, it's a screwdriver," she says, passing it on to Des.
"VERY high quality gift," he nods, impressed. "The hat is excellent and the joke is funny. 'Why doesn't Santa wear pants? Because his other name is Saint Knickerless'."
LIDL: 12 CHRISTMAS CRACKERS £4.99...8/10 Des and Karen like the price and the bang, but they are unsure about the gift.
"Is it another spinning top? Or a reflector for a bike?" asks Des. "It's not good we don't know what it is. Let's try another one."
It reveals a shiny silver notepad. "That's good, I would enjoy that," says Karen, approvingly. "I'd draw a wee man running on every page and play with that for hours. Who needs an iPhone?"
"That's an iPad," adds Des. "What do you get when you cross a yeti with a kangaroo? A fur coat with big pockets. What? Who came up with that?"
BOOTS 6 CRACKERS £5
"Best bang of the day!" whoops Des. "Children will love all that noise and stuff. These are definitely aimed at kids, because the hat is very small. Either that or this panto has given me a big head..."
The gift is a toy plane, which needs to be constructed. "Well, that's okay, but it's not going to do very much more than just sit," says Karen. "It certainly won't fly. The joke is very funny – what lies in a pram and wobbles? A jelly baby. Brilliant. It also has a wee bonus charade. See if you can get this."
After some arm-waving and facial contortions, Des correctly guesses The Lion King. "I quite like those for kids," muses Karen. "Can we give half points? I don't want to give another 6. We're always giving sixes." Des interjects. "Yeah, we're like the Louis Walsh of cracker testing."
CO-OP: 12 FAMILY
CRACKERS £3.50, DOWN FROM £7...8.5/10
The pop is fairly satisfying, and Karen loves the bag of marbles that fall out the cracker.
"What's a monkey's favourite Christmas song? Jungle bells," she laughs. "But what is going on with that hat? It's like medicated bog roll. Very poor. Good, except for the hat."
WAITROSE: 6 WINE CONNOISSEUR CRACKERS, £25 ... 5/10
"These look very beautiful but I have a feeling they are more for your posh festive dinner party than a happy, jolly family Christmas," says Des.
"Disappointing bang too. AND there is no joke. That is my cracker pet hate. It's a wine fact rather than a joke, so – educational, but not much fun. The hat's very lovely though."
JOHN LEWIS: CHRISTMAS CROSS STITCH 6 CRACKERS £10 ... 8/10
"These look lovely and I like the gift," says Karen. "it looks like a mini toilet seat," says Des, unimpressed.
"It is a mirror and clothes brush," tuts Karen. "Very good.
"What is black and white and noisy? A zebra playing a drumkit. Ha! That's funny. And a decent bang too. Lovely."
TESCO: 12 TREE AND TARTAN CRACKERS £3.18 DOWN FROM £3.97 ... 7/10
"These are the cheapest so far and I love the Scottish theme," says Karen. "It's not the worst hat we have had and the gift is OK – another little plastic plane.
"But the joke is terrible – who is the only person who doesn't get hungry at Christmas? The turkey, because it is always stuffed. Groan."
ASDA: 12 FAMILY
CRACKERS £4 ... 8/10
"We like the pretty colours," says Karen, of the multi-coloured snowflake design.
"And the gift is a card trick! Excellent. Let's try another one – awwww, a frog rubber. Lovely."
Des is unimpressed by the joke, however. "What do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back?" he sighs. "A stick," choruses everyone. "All in all, good value for money."
IT'S A CRACKER!
HIGHEST SCORE - MARKS & SPENCER: 6 Luxury Crackers £25 ... 9/10
IT'S A DAMP SQUIB!
LOWEST SCORE - WAITROSE: 6 WINE CONNOISSEUR CRACKERS, £25... 5/10