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Christmas gift exclam
Pronc-spp or eye-dial C(h)ris’mus gif’, Christmas giffAlso Christmas give; ~ box, ~ present, ~ treat, less freq, Christmas-Eve giftchiefly South, South Midland See Map
Used as a greeting on Christmas day; orig the first person saying it received a present from the person(s) spoken to.
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- [1844 Knickerbocker 23.16, Threatening to catch him for a Christmas gift next morning, [she] disappeared up the stairs.]
- 1880 (1881) Harris Uncle Remus Songs 44 GA [Black], I’m gwineter bounce in on Marse John en Miss Sally, en holler Chris’mus gif’ des like I useter.
- 1884 Anglia 7.270 SE, To holler ‘Cris’mus gif’ = to cry ‘Christmas gift’.
- 1890 Howells Boy’s Town 112 OH, The first thing when you woke you tried to catch everybody, and you caught a person if you said “Christmas Gift!” before he or she did; and then the person you caught had to give you a present. Nobody ever said “Merry Christmas!” as people do now; and I do not know where the custom of saying “Christmas Gift” came from. It seems more sordid and greedy than it really was; the pleasure was to see who could say it first; and the boys did not care for what they got if they beat.
- 1903 DN 2.309 seMO, Christmas gift!. . . Merry Christmas!
- 1906 DN 3.130 nwAR, Christmas gift. . . Merry Christmas. Negroes and the lower class of whites use the expression literally as a begging formula. It is felt to be appropriate only on Christmas morning. In other cases it means nothing more than “Merry Christmas.”
- 1908 DN 3.298 eAL, wGA, Christmas gift. . . A greeting on Christmas morning. The person who is caught, i.e., who is greeted first, is expected to give a present to the one who catches him. The custom is passing away.
- 1915 DN 4.181 swVA, Christmas gift.
- 1946 PADS 6.9 VA, NC, cGA, Christmas gift.
- 1949 Kurath Word Geog. 80, In the the North and in most of the North Midland Merry Christmas! is the universal Christmas salutation, and this expression is now freely used by the younger generation in the South and the South Midland, especially in urban areas. The simple folk of the South and the South Midland still say Christmas gift! This salutation is also still heard from older people in southern Pennsylvania (from the Susquehanna westward) and is in rather common use in the Ohio Valley, in West Virginia as well as in Ohio. It seems fairly clear that both the South and the Midland had this expression from early times, and that Merry Christmas! has largely displaced Christmas gift! in Pennsylvania and on Delaware Bay in fairly recent times.
- 1950 PADS 14.19 SC, Christmas-give, -gift, -giff.
- 1954 Harder Coll. cwTN, Christmas-Eve gift.
- c1960 Wilson Coll. csKY, Christmas-Eve Gift! Formerly common as a greeting on Christmas Eve; usually a gift, like candy or nuts, was expected.
- 1965–70 DARE
- Qu. FF10, . . To greet each other on Christmas morning
- 183 Infs, chiefly Sth, S Midl, Christmas gift; GA70, MO20, TX98, Christmas-Eve gift; PA13, My Christmas gift; MD20, Christmas present; SC40, Christmas treat.
- 1970 Tarpley Blinky 233 neTX, Among the older informants, Christmas gift is the usual greeting heard early on Christmas morning. Christmas gift has increasing popularity as the level of education and size of community decline. . . Geographically, Christmas gift is most popular in the northeastern counties. [Reported by 49.5% of infs. Christmas present was given by less than 1%.]
- 1971 Wood Vocab. Change 40 Sth, The usual Christmas greeting is Merry Christmas. Less general but still reported is Christmas gift. A few of the choices in Tennessee and Georgia are Christmas box. Christmas gift, as natives of the region will point out, is a part of a Christmas morning game and thus has a different function from that of exchanging the greeting Merry Christmas.