Appalachia Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

Christmas Gift

Tradition of saying Christmas Gift first on Christmas Day

One of the first things Granny used to do on Christmas morning was to call her sisters and say “Christmas Gift” loudly into the phone. Some years, one of her sisters would beat her to the punch and call her first.

Once our gifts were opened on Christmas morning we went to Granny Gazzie’s house to eat Christmas Dinner. Throughout the evening a stream of people would drop by to visit. One bunch would say their goodbyes and then before you knew it they were replaced with the next bunch coming in the front door. It seemed every time the door opened to a new face-someone would shout “Christmas Gift” at them.

I never gave the saying much thought until I was older-then I worried that Granny was aggravating her sisters (her sisters children were all grown-so they had no need to be up at the break of dawn on Christmas morning like us).

After I started the Blind Pig, I stumbled onto the meaning behind Granny’s Christmas tradition-it’s a game. One of my fellow Appalachian writers, Gary Carden, explains it very well:

Christmas Gift! (A Game): I participated in this game as a child. The whole purpose was to sneak up on one of your friends on Christmas Day, tag him with your hand and yell “Christmas Gift.” If he didn’t see you, he was obligated to give you something ( a nickel, a pencil, a marble, etc.)

As far as I know-no one in Granny’s family ever gave a gift-but they all tried like crazy to say the joyful greeting of Christmas Gift first every year.

Ever heard of the game?



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  • Reply
    Nancy Smith
    December 23, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Don’t know if you are still blogging but in my search for the Christmas gift shout out your post came up. My mother was from East Tennessee in the foothills. Her whole family did this and both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’ve continued it with our family. Love that I’m not the only one!!

  • Reply
    Eugene Messer
    December 25, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    My family helped settle the Southeast corner of Kansas and had arrived from early Massachusetts and Norh Carolina via Tennessee and the children always tried to be the first up Christmas morning shouting “Christmas Gift!”. My father being the baby boy was awakened by his sisters and sent through the house to shout out the greeting.
    In this case the only game was in shouting it out. In later years he would telephone his sisters and try to beat them to the greeting as they answered the phone. When he passed away I carried on the tradition with his sisters until they were gone too but no one has picked it up so it has faded from our family. It appears to be a southern tradition and not connected with poverty as families of all means often did it. What I would liketo know is where it originated in Europe as most of our American traditions orginated there. Does anyone know what country it probably came from?

  • Reply
    Susan Kauffman
    December 24, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    We have always wished everyone Christmas Eve Gift and Christmas Gift…my family and my husband’s both used this wish. My mother and my mother-in-law both said it came down through their families. Their parents and grandparents used this term. Back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s people did not have money for presents…kids might get a piece of penny candy or a piece of fruit, but not much else. Families and friends would travel to a neighbors house for a holiday meal, and upon greeting the visitors they would say ‘Christmas Gift’. The visitor was the gift! And of course the visit…it was being happy to spend time with each other and share a holiday. My mother was born in 1930, and her parents in the late 1800’s. Mom remembered Christmas’s with no gifts, just family and maybe something sweet to eat. One year, her dad exchanged his boots to a man for 2 little dolls…one for my mom and one for her baby sister. Hard times back then.

  • Reply
    Bonnie Dunston
    December 21, 2016 at 9:08 am

    My mother in law would shout out Christmas gift early Christmas morning. She was born in 1929 and grew up in northern Alabama. I regret never asking her about the meaning.

  • Reply
    December 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Adam-she was from the Ranger area of North Carolina. Close to the TN border : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    December 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Where was your grannie from? What town and state?

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    December 31, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Tipper: Sounds like a wonderful tradition. I wish you and your family a great New Years celbration.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    December 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    My Granny said this too but I never knew it was a game. She would call her sister, children, etc and say it. And just like your family, when someone new came to the door, she would shout it and they would shout it back. Thank you for posting this as it brings back wonderful memories.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    December 26, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Tipper , we played this game to see who was first to tell the siblings , Christmas Gift. I enjoyed it so much. It was somewhat sad so many are done and two are 92 and 97 and wouldn’t remeber. thanks Tipper only you would have come up with this wonderful rmemberance for us in these blessed A. Mountains. Mary Lou

  • Reply
    December 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    My Dad always said “Christmas Eve Gift”!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    December 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I always heard it wasn’t a game but that the slaves would come early on Christmas to the “Big House” saying Christmas Give/Gift as their “masters” would distribute clothing for the women/liquor for the men/candy for children, etc. I know my Granddaddy always did it and he always got us up early in the cold to see the Christmas Star. I. distinctly remember standing on the back porch in my nightgown/no shoes shivering but thrilled to see the star and it seemed so still and holy.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I have never heard those words used in such a way, but it is a tradition here to try and call your relatives before they call you and wish them a Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    CHRISTMAS GIFT to all of ya’ll!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Never heard of it, but sounds like a fun game, doesn’t it, well…except for the waking up at the crack of dawn to a telephone ringing. LOL
    Merry Christmas everyone.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    John Stonecypher
    December 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    May you and yours have a blessed
    Christmas and keep up the good work.I do enjoy it very much.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Tipper, I’ve never heard of the Christmas Gift game. I do believe traditions, whether big or small, are the glue that holds the world together.

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    December 24, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Tipper! I have enjoyed visiting you and your blog this past year…

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 24, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I have never heard of it before, Tipper. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    December 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Mama always said “Christmas Eve Gift” We’ll miss hearing it this year. Just talked to my brother about this.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    December 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Gosh! I never heard of that game, but it sounds like it could be fun. Thanks! I’ll have to think about it for next year!
    Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    B f
    December 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    well i am right with the one that wrote about “the little black devises” they all carry in their hands these days . it seems to me instead of setting down to have a meal or just to visit all the younger people'(and some not young” carry their texting too far , they dont know what visiting is the way the rest of us done it , i think if their phones, computers, i pods , blackberrys etc was taken away they would have worse withdrawal symptoms than from any of the other stuff, far be it from me to carry all that stuff with me but if they have to have it so be it
    all you,ns have a merry christmas

  • Reply
    Bobby C
    December 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I’m soooo glad you posted this! For as long as I can remember, my family has made those same calls. Funny, my family has always done “Christmas Eve Gift”…AND “Christmas Gift”! I was always trying to call my Grandpa on Christmas Eve morning and Christmas to try to get him, but he would always answer the phone with a shout of “Christmas Eve Gift” or “Christmas Gift”! I guess anyone who wasn’t familiar with the game was left wondering whenever they called him because he wouldn’t dare answer the phone any other way on those days!
    Then as we would gather at their house for Christmas, everyone would yell “Christmas Gift” as they entered the door.
    My Grandpa passed away in January, but the game lives on. “Christmas Eve Gift” were the first word out of my 12 year old daughter’s mouth this morning. Now my wife, who only grew up in the next county over, had never heard of this until she married into our family.
    Oh…and in case I didn’t say it already…”Christmas Eve Gift Tipper!!!” Guess that means I’m due a present. 🙂
    Merry Christmas to you and your family and God’s richest blessings!
    Bobby C

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Never heard of it, but that sounds like fun! Drop by guests would put Mom in a real tizzy! Our family and friends knew they were welcome to visit, but to call first (my parents never dropped by anyone else’s house unannounced either). We’d spend Christmas Eve at our house or at Aunty and Uncle’s. I’m making Aunty’s “kringle” rolls this morning. A sweet cardamom bread that is baked in little pretzel shapes.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Tipper–I heard it a lot as a kid, but never as a game. Instead, I always assumed it was just a type of cheery greeting. Since Gary Carden and I are of the same generations and pretty much the same age, I wonder how localized it was. I notice that Ed Ammons, whom I seem to remember lives in Bryson City, is familiar with “Christmas Gift” as a game.
    What has struck me, over the years, is just how many highly localized variations there are when it comes to customs, word usage, and the like. That’s part and parcel of what makes Appalachia so fascinating.
    Christmas Gift to everyone!
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    We didn’t do the ‘Christmas Gift’
    greeting, but we did have lots of
    company coming and going. I’d like
    to wish everyone who reads the
    Blind Pig and the Acorn a Merry
    Christmas as we celebrate Our
    Savior’s Birth…Ken

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Yes! we did hear this in days gone by, but I don’t think anyone says it now. Thanks for reminding me!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 11:29 am

    My Mom and my Aunt and Uncle would always try to be the first to call the other on Christmas morning to say “Christmas Gift”, seems they grew up with that tradition and we have started it in our family group now, though we don’t “give” anything we do have the joy of being the first to say it! Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas!!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 10:22 am

    In doing historical research about Christmas in 19th century Virginia, I found information about “Christmas Gift!” I have never known anyone who practiced it though. I love the idea!
    I hope that you and your family have a wonderful, Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Tipper this is a favorite of ours also on Christmas eve, and Christmas Day.
    Thanks for a GREAT blog,
    Merry Christmas!!!!

  • Reply
    Dennis Price
    December 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

    My mother, who is ninety one, would always pull that on Christmas Eve. It was “Christmas Eve Gift” at our house. I plan to call her soon and try and beat her to the punch. Right now I am listening to Pap and Paul’s Christmas album. Please send our sincere wishes for a wonderful Christmas to Pap, Paul, Deer Hunter, and Chitter and Chatter. Get them all to give you a hug from us. Bebe and Pappy

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    December 24, 2011 at 9:48 am

    I had never heard of this, but I think I start doing it today! Thanks for your blog and all the good things I learn here!

  • Reply
    Pam Moore
    December 24, 2011 at 9:19 am

    No I don’t remember such a game. We traveled from one Air Force base to another, so I seldom got to spend Christmas with my, rather big, extended family. Wish I could have.
    Merry Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

    no but is sounds like fun and so does your family.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 24, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Love it, love it….Seems like a variation of “tag you’re it!”…Seems like I remember some game like this from my childhood…but in all my head clutter it is probably mixed up the Tag….LOL
    I think it is a grand idea…so much more fun than watching the grandkids moving their thumbs on those little black devices they carry around…this would be real live interaction…only thing I guess it could get noisy..but hey, I could take it over click, click, click, click…LOL
    Merry Christmas to all…I’m off to shop for a bargain..NOT..
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I never heard of the game but like your family as a kid we had an endless stream of folks all day long –My Dad had 10 siblings and my Mother 6 so we had quite a bit of company and it sure did make a memory–seems most folks these days do not take the time for that customs any more—-Merry Christmas to you Tipper and your family.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 8:29 am

    “O Holy Night the stars are brightly shining, it IS the night of the dear Savior’s birth”
    Merry Christmas to all the Blind Pig Gang and all the subscribers. Also, in view of the current season, let me quote the Charles Dickens character Tiny Tim and join him when he said, “God bless us, every one.”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 24, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I never did, but what a great game…I would say the call was the gift. What a great tradition.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 24, 2011 at 7:53 am

    CHRISTMAS GIFT! I said it first!
    I had completely forgotten about the little game until I read your post this morning. We did that when I was little. I never did get to be first. Thanks for waking another sleeping memory and may you and yours have a very Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Thanks for the info. I had not thought about it before, but I remember hearing this all the time when I was a kid, but never thought about what it might have meant or where it might have originated.
    Merry Christmas to everyone at Blind Pig & the Acorn!!

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 7:43 am

    No I haven’t. But it sounds like lots of fun. Kind of like tag, but with words. Hmmm…I may just start a new tradition!!

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    December 24, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Tipper, I have never heard of the game but it sure sounds like a very fun game trying to be the first to do it especially early in the morning. Just wanted to wish you and yours and all your readers a very Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Our house was like that. It seemed the door never stayed shut for someone either opening or closing it. My folks loved company plus Mom was a great cook.Everybody new it too and there was always somebody sitting at our table. She would say Christmas gift too but never knew the real meaning. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

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