Appalachia Christmas

Christmas Gift

Christmas gift, Christmas give interjection
1 Merry Christmas!
1936 LAMSAS (Madison Co NC, Swain Co NC).
1972-73 Pederson et al. LAGS Christmas gift (Cocke Co TN, Sevier Co TN); Christmas give (Blount Co TN, Cocke Co TN, Jefferson Co TN, Sevier Co TN).
2 Merry Christmas! in a Christmas day ritual: usu the first person to say this is owed a token gift from  the person greeted; hence as noun = this ritual. See esp 1942, 1981 citations.
1942 Thomas Blue Ridge 159 The young folks of the community go from home to home, bursting in with a cheery “Christmas gift!” Those who have been taken unaware, though it happens the same way each year, forgetting, in the pleasant excitement of the occasion, to cry the greeting first, must pay a forfeit of something good to eat-cake, homemade taffy, popcorn, apples, nuts, 1973 GSMNP – 61:8 If you could sneak up so we were out before daylight and if you could get Christmas gift on them, they had to give you something, which was usually apples or stick candy. 1981 Brewer Wonderment 34 If you said “Christmas gift” to somebody on Christmas morning before they said it to you, they had to give you a present before the end of the day. 1986 Ogle Lucinda 44 When we got Christmas gift on her she would pass a plate of sweetbread and a box of mixed peppermint and hore-hound candy around to us.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Granny’s family, the Jenkins, played the Christmas gift game. Anyone who came in the door at Granny Gazzie’s on Christmas Day got a hearty ‘Christmas gift’ from at least one person. I remember Granny calling her sister Jean early early on Christmas morning trying to get her Christmas gift in first. Sometimes she beat Aunt Jean to the punch and sometimes Aunt Jean beat her!

Although they all greatly enjoyed the game I don’t recall them giving the winner a gift. It seemed to be more about the fun and spirit of the day.

Have you ever heard of the game?


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  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    December 13, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Oh Tipper: I missed the discussion yesterday. I was so excited about a book signing of “Fiddler of the Mountains” down at our local drugstore. One dear lady bought SEVEN copies of”Fiddler” for her six daughters and one granddaughter.
    I have never heard of the practice of being first in saying the “Merry Christmas” but it sounds like fun! We just hoped for our stick of candy and a piece of fruit. Small world! Hope your holiday season is near perfect!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 13, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Are those Etsy models really as sweet as they look? If that is trick photography I want a camera like that.

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    December 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I remember the “Christmas Gift Greeting” and trying to say it first. I always went to one of my Aunts house. My that has been a long time ago.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Haven’t heard of the “CHRISTmas gift” game myself. Sounds like something that would be great fun in some families (and would start arguments in others). LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    December 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    We said “Christmas Gift!” in Choestoe (Union County, Blairsville, North Georgia). I think a Christmas gift did not always come, even if you were the first to say it! But being first to greet another in that way was fun! A little nearer New Year’s I’ll tell you what we believed about “the first” on that day. A joyous Christmas to all, and may many good gifts come your way, whether you’re first to say “Christmas Gift!” or not!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    All Christmas trees grown in the mountains are lopsided unless they have been trimmed. Natural trees grown in mostly shade are shaped the best but take a lot longer to grow. Christmas tree farmers would rather grow them in sunlight and keep them trimmed. I did that one summer. I had a long thin razor sharp knife. I had to wear a metal guard (chap) strapped on one of my legs. We did it in July so the wounds would have time to heal before Christmas. The wounds were on the trees not on me.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I never heard of this but I suppose
    it’s a nice way to keep friends at
    Today is the last day of Deer Season here in Cherokee County. I’m anxious to see if my friend got one today. I got a couple of messes from his son and he sure knows how to make Deer Hamburger and Sausage…Ken

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 11:57 am

    We played Christmas Gift as a child.If you were the winner you never knew what the gift might be. More than likely you would let the next person you encounter win so you could get rid of it. But it was fun!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 10:54 am

    My Dad would always be the first to call us wherever we were living at the time and wish us “Christmas Eve Gift” and if we were at home we got a big kiss and hug. I always tried to beat him to be the first, but he usually won and would laugh and start the merriment for the holiday. Sweet memories…

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I am always pleased when you feature some tradition in danger of being lost. Although I have not heard of this it seems like such a joyous addition to an already festive holiday.
    Tipper, you always seem to stimulate my long term memory with your posts. I recall the mistletoe above doors while giggling teens made a big pretense of avoiding-haven’t seen mistletoe used for many years. Most of all I miss the days when Dad took us out to pick out our own tree on the mountain farm. The tree would appear so pretty standing against a background of leafless deciduous forest. Then when placed in living room always appeared lopsided until Mom covered with her bubbling lights and tinsel. Still had to turn the bad side against the wall. Or there was the year Santa almost fell out of the loft because he didn’t come down the chimney. Now, that was a Christmas!

  • Reply
    Louise Grenell
    December 13, 2014 at 9:30 am

    My Grandmother always greeted everyone on Christmas day with “Christmas Gift”. There were no special gift involved other than lots of food and family fun. Now that my parents are deceased and the rest of the family have moved all over the country, I really miss times like those.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Tipper, I’ve never heard of that tradition. It sounds like a fun family tradition.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I remember my parents and grandparents saying that. Seems it was merely a greeting by the time I came along. I guess they never explained the meaning so it didn’t ‘take’ on my generation.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I’ve never heard of the game, but I will be playing it this year while using this post to prove they owe me a gift.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    December 13, 2014 at 9:03 am

    My Granny did this too! But there was no presents involved, just fun.

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    December 13, 2014 at 9:02 am

    I’ve never heard of that,but it sounds like fun! I can’t help but think how sad it is that many of these traditions are in danger of being lost. Thanks,Tipper for keeping them alive. Future generations won’t know what they have missed without people like you!!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 13, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Mama always said “Christmas Eve Gift” on Christmas Eve. There was no gift involved–just saying it first!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2014 at 7:56 am

    No, I haven’t heard of this game, but I do enjoy just saying the words – Merry Christmas! Then after that special day, I enjoy saying – Happy New Year! No real game to it, just a heartfelt wish for the season of the year.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 13, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Christmas Gift to you…lol
    I can’t remember ever playing the Christmas gift game.
    I wonder how old the tradition was? If it was played in Madison county per LAMSAS interviews, then I am sure my parents were aware of the game. They were married in 1940 so if interviews were conducted around 1936 it is very possible families or relatives played the game or knew of it. Was it Irish, Scot, or German origin? Do you know?
    Very interesting. We usually just use the greeting Merry Christmas, when we are handing presents over at the door. That’s when we are trying to get in the house, loaded down with presents for the family, jars of ambrosia, and our portion of the Christmas dinner!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 13, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Tipper-Although folks in and around Bryson City, especially the older ones, used this greeting regularly when I was a kid, I never remember any “fee” or “forfeit” being connected with it. Instead, sit was just another, and very common, way of saying Merry Christmas.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 13, 2014 at 7:10 am

    I never have, but it sounds like a family tradition!

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