‘Christmas hold’: meaning and origin

The Australian-English expression Christmas hold, also Christmas grip, denotes a grabbing of another’s testicles.

Based on the image of a handful of nuts (cf., below, quotations 1 & 2), this expression alludes to the noun nut, denoting:
a) a dry fruit consisting of an edible kernel enclosed in a hard or leathery shell;
b) a testicle.

a) Nuts have long been associated with the season of Christmas.
—As mentioned, for example, in the following about the arrival of a regiment of soldiers for a period of twenty-eight days’ training, published in Berrow’s Worcester Journal (Worcester, Worcestershire, England) of Saturday 8th May 1869:

Their arrival was not unwelcome—on the contrary; for so dull is the city just now—so stagnant has everything been since we burnt the yule-log, and cracked the nuts of Christmas, and drew lots on Twelfth-night—that any change was agreeable.

b) One of the early occurrences of the noun nut used to denote a testicle is from The Love Feast, or a Bride’s Experience—A Poem in Six Nights (Associated Female Press, Blind Alley, Coney Hatch, Maidenhead, 1865), by ‘Philocomus’:
—as quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition, June 2022):

I rubbed it up, I stroked it down […] and then with gentle touch Rubbed the soft nut I loved so much.

—Cf. also the phrases:
the (dog’s) bollocks;
a racing dog’s bollocks;
a load of cobblers.

The earliest occurrences of the expression Christmas hold, also Christmas grip, that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From Australia Speaks: A Supplement to “The Australian Language” (Sydney: Shakespeare Head Press, 1953), by Sidney John Baker (1912-1976):

[prison slang]
Christmas hold—A hold applied by grabbing an opponent’s testicles (a “handful of nuts”).

2-: From Packhorse and Pearling Boat: Memories of a Mis-spent Youth (Melbourne: Cassell Australia Ltd, 1964), the autobiography of the Australian author Thomas Matthew Ronan (1907-1976):
—as quoted in A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press Australia, 1990), by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020):

Joe came in low, looking for that grip which the west coast black fellow learned from that other clean fighter, the Jap: The Christmas hold (the handful of nuts).

The Australian-English expression Christmas hold, also Christmas grip, then occurs, for example, in the following:

● From an advertisement for Planters, published in The Bulletin (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 17th December 1977:

“MY GOOD FRIEND Georges Auguste Escoffier,” said the pedant, adjusting his party hat and horsehair whiskers, “at first insisted that when making, er… ”
“Whoopeeee!” said the Duchess.
“… his celebrated Peche Melba, only sliced green almonds should be used as a topping. Later, of course, he came to appreciate the gastronomic, the tactile, the sensual beauty of cooked, crunchy almonds a la Planters. […] For when it comes to the, er…”
“Crunch,” crunched the Duchess.
“Precisely! When it comes to the crunch, the Planters macadamia is still the field marshal, the chief of general staff, among the kernels.”
“Well, you may be right,” said his handsome hostess. “But I’m here to tell you kiddo, that the best part of the Cup Day at Flemington was sitting in the champagne bar and cracking open Planters pistachios and dumping shells in old Timmy Trusstapper’s topper. Einstein used to do it, you know, to assist his thinking. Whiskers Blake, the wrestler used to do it when practising the Christmas Grip. Don’t say that either of ’em borrowed old Timmy’s topper, but the fact is that the second best thing one can carry, after a hip-flask, is a package of Planters…”
“Indubitably, dear lady. As I was saying to the Vice Chancellor while swopping a macadamia for a brace of Brazils this morning, what might the Master have done with his Sauce Noisette had he only… er… the Christmas Grip, Duchess?”
“A handful of Planters!” sang the Duchess, showing him two.

● From Swig and swing: The French concoction, a correspondence from Paris by Jon Geddes, published in The Sun-Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Sunday 18th December 1988:

WHILE most Australian rugby league players like going to discos and having a few beers, their French counterparts prefer drinking red wine and dancing the cancan.
But French footballers drink their wine before the game and do the cancan during it.
One player will swing between two of his team-mates, kicking anyone from the opposition unfortunate enough to get in the firing line.
Sydney forward Fred Teasdell has learnt quickly, playing with Villa France de Rouergue.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve been kicked, gouged, head-butted, grabbed in the Christmas hold and spat at,” Teasdell said.
“I’ve never seen anything like the last four weeks, I’ve just felt like getting away.
“It’s a lovely place and the people are great but I have to worry too much about survival,” he said.

● From Flying Fibros ground Sea Eagles, by Roy Masters, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Monday 20th March 1989—about a game between two Sydney rugby-league clubs, the Parramatta Eels and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles:

The war between the clubs was encapsulated by the post-game comments of […] Manly secretary Doug Daley.
Daley pointed to a prostrate Lyons with ice bags on his groin and said: “They got him with a Christmas hold. I hope like f— hell it comes up on video.”

From Soccer for insomnia, by Bruce Elder, published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Monday 22nd January 1996:

Have you noticed how, even though it is not supposed to be a body contact sport, the opponents (and some of the fellow players) manage to apply the infamous “Christmas grip” when the referee is not looking. There’s a famous picture of the great Gazza *, minding his own business, with some lout grabbing his goolies in a very ambiguous and, one suspects, very painful way.

(* Gazza: nickname of the British footballer Paul Gascoigne (born 1967))

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