The informant explained his family’s other Christmas tradition of waking up at dawn for presents, and added that another Pierson family Christmas tradition is telling the children that if they weren’t good that year, Santa would bring them ashes and switches. It’s something that Pierson grandparents have been telling their kids for many decades, and it passes down as each new generation grows up.
A particular story involving this family tradition came to mind as he was telling me about the tradition. He said that he would tell his four daughters about Santa’s ashes and switches every year, but on one particular year the girls decided to turn it into a practical joke. That Christmas, their family was headed to Alabama to spend the holidays at his sister’s beach house. He had been warning his daughters about the ashes and switches for a couple months by that time. The girls decided to wrap ashes from the fireplace and switches (twigs) from the backyard in a pretty box with a beautiful bow and took the box with them to Alabama. When it came time to open presents, they presented the box to their father (the informant). He opened the box and the ashes flew out and coated his pajamas and face. The entire family laughed because for the first time ever, the kids had turned the tradition back around on the adults.
He still continues the tradition to this day, and so do his daughters with their own children. He thinks it’s only a matter of time before someone else wraps a box of ashes as a prank.