Sure, this is peak season for generosity. And in these final days before the great unwrapping, stores are overrun with magnanimous souls seeking to show their love for friends and family with stuff.
Good stuff. Thoughtful stuff. Expensive, useful, and trendy stuff. Stuff that mostly will make the getters cry out with genuine heart-palpitating gratitude.
And then there is the rest of the crap that will be returned, regifted, or guiltily relegated to storage oblivion.
Best intentions notwithstanding, no matter who's your daddy - or other designated present-purchasing affiliate - there really is only one person who knows exactly what you want and need. Who has walked a mile in your shoes. Who knows your size, color preference, and style number.
And this is why Micah Brown showed up early Saturday to stand in line outside Ubiq at 1509 Walnut St. for his turn to buy a pair of "Blue Legend" Air Jordan 11's.
"I'm too old for Christmas gifts," said Brown, 21, a biology major at Temple University. So he entered Ubiq's raffle and became one of the 100 or so winners allowed into the store on the first day of the sneaker's release. Each customer was given the honor of shelling out $200 for one pair of the white retro sneakers that sport a blue silhouetted basketball player on the ankle.
The majority were young, hip self-gifters like Brown, a small but significant subset of Center City's holiday shoppers.
Out for themselves, but not necessarily out of greed, they joined the annual spend-a-thon for a variety of reasons, but mainly cool millennial detachment, dispersed families and religious beliefs, or a lack thereof, with no connection to incense, myrrh, or American Express points.
A few blocks west at the Apple store, Mamadou Yansane was trying to decide which color iPad cover to buy himself. Yansane, 33, a personal banker from Paris, was in Philadelphia visiting family. Since they are Muslim, he explained, they do not celebrate Christmas.
He planned to buy a present for his girlfriend, who is back in France. "It's a surprise," he winked.
Meaning, alors that he had not yet picked one out?
"Oui," he confessed, adding that he had time. He won't be leaving for another two weeks.
For Taryn McElrath and Bryce Morrison, their mere presence was a gift.
McElrath, 17, had taken a brief leave as the "bread girl" at Spicy Girl Barbecue in Houston, to see her younger sister, Carson, dance in The Nutcracker.
Morrison, a friend of the family, had traveled even farther. The 22-year-old horticulture student lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.
As of Saturday afternoon, neither had spent much time shopping, other than buying coffee at Starbucks and a bouquet of roses and daisies for Carson, who is a full-time ballet student at the Rock School for Dance Education.
"Although," Morrison admitted, "I do collect pins."
In the interest of full disclosure, he said, he had bought two of them - one shaped like the Liberty Bell and another like the state of Pennsylvania.
It's not that many self-gifters aren't being generous to others as well.
Andy Lloyd, who works in cash reconciliation for Black Rock Investments, had already bought a car trunk's worth for his family.
His very large family.
"My mom has 10 brothers and sisters, and they all have kids," Lloyd said. "There are 28 of us."
At 25, Lloyd is the oldest. Before packing up for the long ride home to Upstate New York, Lloyd stopped at Lululemon to pick up a sweatshirt for himself.
His reasoning was purely existential.