"Christmas Gift" is an expression traced back as early as 1844 in the southern United States. It is derived from the tradition of saying "Christmas Gift!" among typically poor African American and Anglo farming families in rural areas, when people would wake on Christmas morning and rush to say "Christmas Gift" before anyone else. The person being told "Christmas Gift!" is expected to present the person saying it to them with a present. In addition, while "Merry Christmas" is the common and current seasonal salutation, "Christmas Gift" was an equivalent expression used in the rural south and also in southern Pennsylvania, Ohio Valley, West Virginia, and later in northeastern Texas as a simple greeting and recognizing the birth of Christ as a gift.
Christmas Eve Gift (variation)
"Christmas Eve Gift" is another variation. The Dictionary of American Regional English traces the first written uses of "Christmas Eve Gift" back to 1954. The tradition is similar to the "Christmas Gift" tradition, but occurs on Christmas Eve. The person being told "Christmas Eve Gift!" is expected to present the person saying it to them with a small present, traditionally candy or nuts.
- Whistlin' Dixie: A Dictionary of Southern Expressions by Robert Hendrickson (Pocket Books, New York, 1993)
- Dictionary of American Regional English, Harvard University Press
- PBS's Do You Speak American - Track That Word