Appalachia Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

Christmas Gift!

tradition of saying christmas gift

Granny with her mother Gazzie 1963 – Ranger NC

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 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.

~Susan Kauffman


When I was growing up the very first thing Granny did on Christmas morning was 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’s mother, 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.”

I never gave the little game Granny and her family played much thought when I was growing up. It was only after I started the Blind Pig and The Acorn that I learned the ritual was wide spread throughout the mountains of Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    December 14, 2021 at 9:19 am

    My family would also use this form of greeting at Christmas time. We were always told that if you could say, “Christmas Gift” to someone first, then that person was obliged to buy you a gift. Never happened for us though!

  • Reply
    Lorie Thompson
    December 16, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Oh Tipper, I can hear my sweet Mama saying “Christmas Eve gift” as we walked through the door! My children and I play this game and the first one to shout it out gets a little gift. It is interesting on Christmas Eve morning how early my children would awake in order to be ready to “get me”. I never really knew the origins of the game. I am so glad to understand it, now.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 15, 2017 at 10:24 pm


  • Reply
    Michael Montgomery
    December 15, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Among us four siblings, there is still competition to see who can shout the greeting first to one another, but when we were kids, we competed with our maternal grandfather. He would usually burst into our bedroom even before we rose and exclaimed “Christmas gift!,” and that required us to reward him with a small token. Normally a good hug and kiss were just what he was waiting for. The tradition of rewarding the first person to say the greeting. I’ve also heard “Christmas give” in East Tennessee. The Dictionary of American Regional English documents the custom throughout the South as far west as Texas and as far north as the southern Midwest. It has also found other expressions: “Christmas box!,” “Christmas Present!,” “Christmas tree!,” and “Christmas Eve gift!” having the same usage. Here is a quote from a Civil War soldier from Rutherford Co NC: “1861 Griffin CW Letters (Dec) Dear sisters a few lins to you as brother has Claim A Christmas gifte I think I might have one to[o] I Claim one from gorge and from Joseph you Can tell them to have it for me when I come home If I live.” They had no furlough for Christmas, but only a little diversion in the form of playing games, marksmanship, and other kinds of competition.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    December 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    My grandfather would say this when he greeted us at his front every Christmas. Wonderful memory! He was born in 1896.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    December 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    All I’d receive is “CHRISTMAS TEXT”

  • Reply
    Brian P. Blake
    December 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    For me, the greatest Christmas Gift is the joy of family and friends coming together to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, God’s holy messenger, His wonderful present of love to all mankind.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    I have never heard of this until I started reading The Bling Pig. Nice snow picture, Mom and Dad have one of me standing waist deep in 63, I was 1yr old. I think I figured out why I was blocked from comments, from time to time, Firefox, google chrome works.

  • Reply
    Pat Young
    December 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm


  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    December 15, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Carolyn, my granny made me doll clothes, too, on her pedal sewing machine for Christmas. I’m 67 and she’s been gone over 40 yrs. but I still have one of the little dresses. It is one of my treasures. I remember her sewing for me, too–they made a paper pattern and i thought they were making me a paper dress.
    Mama always said ‘Christmas Eve Gift.” Daddy, too.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2017 at 11:24 am

    What a sweet reminder of the “gift” of friends and family calling at your door to share Christmas cheer together. The warmth of those memories comes flooding back to make me think of all those dear faces and voices who came to share ” Christmas gift ! ” with us.
    Thank you for bringing them back to us in this post.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    December 15, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I love that! It is a gift to hear from someone you love!

  • Reply
    December 15, 2017 at 10:18 am

    My best Christmas as a child was waking up to a bike (that was handed down & painted) and a doll.
    The most wonderful gift I got that day was a big brown paper bag of doll clothes & bonnets my granny had made for my doll. Santa told her what size to make those clothes.

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    December 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

    What a thoughtful tradition! “Christmas Gift” to you from us!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 15, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Somehow we missed that tradition. I like it though. For one thing it immediately refers to relationship rather than material things. I wish I had been a better Christmas gift myself. I keep trying and you help.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 15, 2017 at 8:46 am

    What a lovely gift. I think I read about tjis but our family never did tjis. I love the thoughts behind and in keeping with the seadon

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    December 15, 2017 at 8:19 am

    Never heard that phrase growing up in the Piedmont, but the tradition of unannounced visits on Christmas Eve was widespread. Mama called them “Pop Calls”, and I remember taking cookies along to share. Except for Halloween, it was the only time it was “acceptable” to visit someone other than immediate family without first letting them know you were coming.
    By the way, with snow still all round in the shadows, I posted photos of Saturday on my blog. So nice to have a beautiful early snow before Christmas. Vann

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