Christmas cracker pulling: How to send everyone home a winner

December 15, 2014

According to experts' statistical analyses, if you're expecting 10 guests for dinner on Christmas day, 15 crackers—those festive cardboard tubes filled with a one-size-fits-no-one paper hat, a small toy, and a groan-inducing joke—should be enough to send everyone home happy. The experts came to their estimation by simulating 10,000 parties, with guest numbers ranging from 2 to 50. Their results are published in Significance.

In the traditional approach, all dinner guests sit around the table, cross arms, and pull with their two immediate neighbors. In this approach, each person has a 25% chance of winning zero crackers, so there are clearly inefficiencies in the system.

A better approach would be to use a system that starts by pairing up individuals and having each pair pull a single cracker. (For odd-sized groups one individual will have to stir the gravy or check the goose while this takes place.) Exactly [N/2] crackers are used in this round, with the same number of winners and losers.

Those who have not yet won continue as before until only a single individual remains. That individual then pulls a cracker with themselves and we are done.

Explore further: Back to Nature rice crackers recalled

More information: Clifford, D., Lê Cao, K.-A. and Huang, B. E. (2014), A statistician's Christmas party. Significance, 11: 44-47. DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2014.00784.x

Related Stories

Back to Nature rice crackers recalled

December 11, 2007

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the nationwide recall of Back to Nature Sesame Ginger Rice Thins crackers because of a labeling error.

It's the last bite that keeps you coming back for more

June 11, 2014

Your memory for that last bite of a steak or chocolate cake may be more influential than memory for the first bite in determining when you want to eat it again, according to research published in Psychological Science, a ...

Recommended for you

UN says world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050

June 22, 2017

India's population is expected to surpass China's in about seven years and Nigeria is projected to overtake the United States and become the third most populous country in the world shortly before 2050, a U.N. report said ...

The story of music is the story of humans

June 20, 2017

How did music begin? Did our early ancestors first start by beating things together to create rhythm, or use their voices to sing? What types of instruments did they use? Has music always been important in human society, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.