Magical Party Favors

For The Longest Night, we gathered inspiration from a number of holiday traditions to celebrate the winter solstice. Here is a bit of history behind our party favors.

holiday cracker


Holiday crackers are a British Christmas tradition that is spreading to other countries and other celebrations. A cracker is a party favor consisting of a cardboard tube covered in gift wrap containing various items, traditionally a paper hat, a joke or motto, and a small gift item. The cracker also contains a "snap" that creates a pop when the ends of the cracker are pulled. Crackers are traditionally opened by two people, one pulling each end, to set off the snap and tear the wrapper.

Crackers originated in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. British confectioners, who had seen "bon bons" (sugared almonds wrapped in tissue paper) in France, began inserting jokes or mottos into wrapped treats. The development of the snap (a folded strip of stiff paper with a bit of silver fulminate as the charge) made crackers more festive, and led to the use of the cardboard tube to protect the contents from the snap. Since then, crackers have been adopted as party favors for weddings and other formal celebrations.

We have preapred two kinds of crackers for The Longest Night, one for children and one for adults. The children's cracker contains a child's toy and a slip of paper with some very silly kid's jokes. Instead of inserting paper hats into the crackers, we are providing a dazzling array of masks, crowns, and tiaras from which children may select a suitable item. The adult crackers contain the traditional paper hat, a miniature playing card and fortune, and a single-bead necklace with a polymer clay bead. Adults are also free to select a mask, crown or tiara to assist them in attaining the right frame of mind for this grand event.


Masks are an essential part of celebration and ritual in many cultures. In covering our faces, the part of our bodies most strongly associated with our identities, we can assume new identities. In some traditions, the mask wearer is regarded as transformed rather than merely disguised. Masks are an essential part of the celebration of carnival, a period of excess before the Lenten abstinence from meat (celebrated in America as Mardis Gras). The masks that we offer our guests at The Longest Night range from simple masks to masks that have been decorated by hand by volunteer artists.

See more photos of masks.
carnival masks
Four hand-painted carnival masks.

Polymer Clay Beads

The single-bead necklaces given as favors at The Longest Night carry a bead made of polymer clay containing an image. The beads are made using a technique called caning. This technique originated with the Romans, who used it to make glass beads. A "cane" consists of a rod of materials of different colors; when a slice is cut, it displays an image. Canes are drawn out to reduce the size of the image and achieve a very high level of detail; multiple canes can be fused to create complex images. Slices of cane can be fused to plain beads, as in the Italian millefiori ("thousand flowers") technique, or used as individual beads, as we have done for The Longest Night.

Rather than glass, which requires special equipment and high temperatures, we have made our beads of polymer clay, which is easily worked by hand. Once "fired" at oven temperatures, polymer clay becomes a solid plastic with deep saturated colors. The designs for The Longest Night celebrate the austere beauty of snowflakes and a winter's night.
polymer clay cane
Multiple canes of polymer clay are used to construct
a complex cane. Slices of two canes are shown below.

polymer clay beads

We made new beads for The Longest Night 2003, shown below. These are also made of polymer clay, using the traditional Italian millefiori technique.

polymer clay beads


Have you ever read a fortune from a fortune cookie that seemed strangely appropriate to your life at the time? The fortunes for The Longest Night are based upon meanings associated with playing cards. Each fortune is accompanied by a miniature playing card, delivering a "reading" to every partygoer. Do you wonder what the year to come will hold for you? Find out at The Longest Night.

Explore art inspired by fortune tellers.

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