'Twas the weekend before Christmas, and all through the stores,

those last-minute shoppers were looking for scores.

The stockings were hung off the racks on display,

just waiting for someone to whisk them away.

The children were left with the sitter to wait,

while ma and pa shopped at a feverish rate.

Admittedly, as you read my take on the classic "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem, I am in the same boat as the parents in this scenario — braving the hordes of shoppers hoping to find that perfect gift just in time before Christmas rolls around on Tuesday.

I will be the first to tell you that I do not love facing the throngs of people that fill the big box stores around Christmas time, but sometimes there is no way around it — whether thanks to a particularly elusive gift or just some good ol' fashioned procrastination.

Usually, I try to get a majority of my Christmas shopping done before the final holiday homestretch, but it always seems like there is something that has to be grabbed last minute. Despite my aversion to large crowds, I will always make those final shopping runs as needed. Why? Quite simply, because there is nothing like that feeling of delivering the perfect gift to friends and family members.

With each passing year, I seem to care less and less about the gifts wrapped and laid carefully under the tree for myself. Rather, I look forward to seeing the reaction of my immediate family and close friends as they peel away the layers of Christmas-themed paper — or, more often, dig through the tissue within the gift bag — to see what specially curated item I have selected for them.

For some, the idea of picking out Christmas gifts may fill them with dread. A close friend of mine recently admitted to me that his wife is particularly hard to buy for — and rarely clues him in to what she is wanting for Christmas.

Personal preferences obviously have to be taken into account when buying gifts, but there is a certain level of deductive reasoning that can also help you understand your intended recipient and get them something great they may not have even known they wanted. Let me tell you a Christmas story to illustrate my point.

While growing up, each year around Christmas time my mom would share the story about her favorite Christmas decorations to look at outside of those put up by her own family. After a few years, my sister and I knew the story like the back of our hands — she always loved the antique German Christmas village put up by her parents' neighbors down the street in Wakefield, so much so that the Mrs. of the home promised to leave the village to my mom once she passed away. However, those neighbors moved away before the village could officially be handed down.

Never forgetting that story, once I got a job and had my own money to spend on Christmas gifts an idea dawned on me. While my mom didn't get the chance to carry on displaying the traditional German Christmas village, I could help her start a tradition of her own.

Thanks to her penchant for shopping at Hallmark, I already knew where to go, too. While not in the German style, I picked out a line that seemed to have some promise — the Department 56 North Pole Village series — and I still remember the first pieces I got for her, "Candy Cane Lane" and "Ginny's Cookie Treats."

Over the years, the village has grown — with Santa's house being the last "must have" piece on the list (though nothing has met the muster for inclusion just yet). Finding pieces has become quite the expedition over the years, as fewer and fewer stores carry the line, but it's a gift I'll always look to track down because of the deeper meaning it holds.

Meaning and backstory hold a lot of sway in my mind when it comes to gift giving — whether it's some inside information you have on the recipient or something that speaks to your personal relationship and shared interests. Even if you have someone who is traditionally tough to buy gifts for, do some soul searching and I'm sure you'll find something that will light up their face brighter than the Christmas tree you gather around. Who knows? Maybe you'll hear them exclaim, as they drive out of sight, merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

— Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at kbreckunitch@thekansan.com.