It’s midnight on Christmas Eve. My cell phone rings, and I jump from a deep sleep! Over the phone, my uncle shouts, “Christmas Gift!” As I turn toward my husband, whose face is unamused, he turns over in bed and says, “Your family has the weirdest traditions!”
Throughout my childhood, I distinctly remember my grandfather (aka Pa, pronounced Pawww) being the first to say “Christmas gift” as soon as he comes into contact with anyone on Christmas, whether in person or via telephone.
I always thought it was just a family tradition that he started when we were little. Turns out, there’s a real history with the phrase.
According to an article in Garden & Gun (2016), writer Amanda Heckert interviewed Dr. Michael Montgomery, a University of South Carolina professor emeritus of English and linguistics. He suggests that the two-word phrase is mainly a Southern expression that dates back to the Civil War and possibly even before then.
Basically, the meaning behind it declares that the first person to say “Christmas gift” has the right to open the first gift of the day. And, like Heckert, the family tradition continues but with no actual prize, just the bragging rights of having been the first to shout it out.
Even though this will be our family’s twelfth Christmas without Pa, the tradition continues with my uncle, sister, cousins and so forth.
Get ready, Uncle Joe! You’re in for a rude “awakening” come December 25th.