The notion of a jolly, old man completely in charge of the gift giving aspect of Christmas is ideal.
Unfortunately for most college students, Santa Claus is only a memory from the past, leaving the search for the perfect present up to them. In a world where gift options seem immeasurable and never-ending, this quest can quickly become an overwhelming and weighty burden.
"It's always hard to decide if I want to give something the person needs, something the person wants or something they don't expect but will enjoy anyway," said Julie Remmereid, junior psychology major. "I prefer to give something they didn't expect – it's more fun, and when it's unexpected it makes it more interesting."
Gift giving is sometimes easier when the recipient has specific hobbies and tastes, narrowing the span of options. If all else fails, most store employees and students advise gift certificates as a safe path to take.
For the outdoor type
If the recipient has a love for the outdoors and affection for activity, a range of gift possibilities exists. Sports and outdoor stores like Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), Gart Sports and Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) specialize in the latest equipment and technology necessary for almost every outdoor recreational activity.
Reggie Bruce, an REI employee, suggested water and wind-resistant products as ideal gifts this season. Trailrunners, a shoe with gortex liners, gloves and a new Taku jacket are essential gear for anyone wanting to get outdoors in the winter weather.
"(Outdoor gifts) are great because you're helping people become more aware of the outdoors and it's going to bring fitness to their life," Bruce said. "Getting outside is a way to better your life."
Snowshoeing equipment could be an ideal gift for someone wanting to try a new sport as well. Most stores also have outdoor survival equipment, like micro fiber compact towels and an instant pocket tent, which range in price from $5 to $30 and are necessary for the active type.
For the book lover
When it comes to books, the possibilities seem endless. Christy Androsky, assistant store manager of Barnes and Noble Booksellers, said essentially a book is a gift that keeps on giving.
"It's not a consumable – it's not like chocolate where you enjoy it for the day and it's done," Androsky said. "Books are going to enrich you in some way. You're going to learn something from it, so it's something that helps people grow."
Androsky said a "Calvin and Hobbes" box set, an Italian cookbook called "The Silver Spoon" and Sudoku puzzles, a "hot new numbers game," were ideal gifts unique to this holiday season. With the movies coming out in theatres and on DVD, she recommended any literature from "The Chronicles of Narnia" to "March of the Penguins."
For the lyrically and visually inclined
Music lovers have a multitude of options to choose from this holiday season. According to Amazon.com, Madonna's "Confessions on a Dance Floor," "The Essential Johnny Cash" and "Rent" soundtrack are the current top sellers.
At Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Jolie Hogancamp, the department manager, said people are consistently giving Christmas music as gifts, and recommended Diana Krall's "Christmas Songs."
As for DVD selections, "Family Guy" season four, "The Simpsons" season seven, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "40-Year-Old Virgin," the unrated version, are new to stores this month. Hogancamp also said the "Polar Express," "Madagascar," "March of the Penguins" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" are excellent buys, particularly for children.
"(Music and DVDs) are entertainment," Hogancamp said. "There's a reading sector and then there's a sector that likes their entertainment fast. We're a media culture, so DVDs and music fit right in with people's interests, especially for younger kids."
For the lover of eccentricities and knick-knacks
If needing a gift for someone with more non-conventional tastes, Old Town has a plenty of stores ideal for finding oddities. Thamel Imports Gift Shop has a variety of global gift possibilities.
Avik Maskey, an employee at the shop, said the majority of the products are imported from India and Nepal, but shoppers can find some Vietnamese and Chinese items as well.
Tapestries, tea sets, decorative mirrors, jewelry and Kama Sutra training books and equipment are only a few products the shop sells. Prices in the shop range from around $5 to $150.
"They are different," Maskey said. "Normally if you go to a chain store or something like that, it's all the same thing, so a small store like this has a lot of different things that you won't find everywhere and are really not common.
"We have stuff for everybody – anybody can come in here and find something they'll want."
Regardless of the gift choice, the presence of presents during this time of year is nearly undeniable.
"Giving presents is how my family expresses our love, so it's really important to us," Remmereid said. "I think it's been a way for people who aren't as religious to be involved in the holiday – it's definitely become a mainstream thing."