The Hunt for the Perfect Gift

There are three words that send shivers down my spine: The Perfect Gift. It's what we seek to give. But how do we define the perfect gift? And better yet, where do we find it? Is the perfect gift one in which the recipient starts crying tears of joy? Or is it the gift that cost you practically nothing and still manages to put a smile on their face? It's a hard question to answer and one I tackle every holiday season.

As the recipient, we crave the perfect gift for obvious reasons. As the sender, we want to give the perfect gift so we can be remembered, as well as enjoy that moment of making somebody truly happy. Anyone with kids in their lives knows the sweetness of seeing that unbridled enthusiasm when they open exactly what they wanted. And we definitely don't want to waste our money on things that will end up in the trash or on Craig's List.

At this time of year stores are convinced they have the perfect gift. And Web sites like PersonalShopper.com attempt to help you find the perfect gift by asking you a few questions about the recipient. Out spits a list of ideas. I experimented with one of these sites recently and the result was a list of very bizarre ideas that were completely unuseable. I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law, who I stated in the questionnaire loves music, isn't going to be all that thrilled with a Michael Jackson poster.

Then you have the online wishlists, which are the adult version of a letter to Santa. Amazon.com will let you generate a list for yourself and then e-mail it to whomever you want. Or they can "stumble upon it" by searching Amazon.com for your name or e-mail address. I reluctantly made one for my 5-year-old daughter this year because I knew her grandparents and aunts and uncle would be asking me what she wanted for Christmas. And... OK, I made one for myself too. I'll admit, it's great to get the perfect gift but the older you get, the more awkward it is to tell your family what they can get you for Christmas. Note to family: I will be perfectly happy with whatever you give me. I'll even cry if you want me to. Especially if I get that new laptop that I want.

So how do you generate gift ideas? How do you define the perfect gift? What's the best gift you ever received and what's the best gift you ever gave?

By Tania Anderson |  December 18, 2008; 12:00 AM ET Holidays and Special Occasions
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