PORTLAND – Stores started to decorate for Christmas before children had a chance to say “trick-or-treat,” television commercials started offering gift ideas shortly after, and local radio stations have been playing holiday tunes since the turkey was carved for the Thanksgiving feast.

But despite all the ramping up for the gift-giving season, some folks waited until Christmas Eve to find that perfect present for under the tree.

“I want to take as long as possible to find the perfect gift,” Elise Alves said Friday, adding she also had to wait for her most recent paycheck before hitting the stores. “That and I’m naturally a procrastinator.”

She was shopping in Mexicali Blues for friends and family members with her friend Lynsie Peters, also of Portland.

Alves picked out a Mexican Baja Hoodie for her brother, while Peters contemplated a small box with colorful, interchangeable drawers she was buying for a friend’s mom.

“Which color drawers do you like?” she asked Alves, switching drawers with a similar box on a nearby shelf.

Mexicali Blues was packed with customers Friday, and to the staff’s surprise, some customers were just starting their Christmas shopping.

Exchange Street was bustling with activity, and many other stores in Portland’s Old Port were busy with shoppers.

Inside Treehouse Toys, James Dodd of Portland had his hands full of small trinkets and toys. He continued shopping while a line of people waiting to check out started to build at the register.

“I prefer waiting until the last minute. It’s fun getting in the Christmas spirit,” Dodd said.

Around a shelving unit stacked high with toys, Nathaniel Lyons, 3, was putting colorful bouncing balls in the arms of his father, Sean Lyons. The duo were hoping to find the perfect gift for Nathaniel’s 9-month-old sister Evangeline.

As one customer purchased a package of white tissue paper and a roll of snowman decorated wrapping paper, The Paper Patch Store’s manager Cheryl Howe said many people were picking up their final touches for Christmas gifts.

John Ranco was browsing the store with his mother, Carole Ranco, brother Steve Ranco and nieces Lily, 9, and Emma, 7. The family was taking the last-minute shopping opportunity to get out of the house.

John Ranco, who is visiting from Boston, said he saved some of his shopping so he could enjoy Portland’s shops.

“I love supporting all the local shops,” he said, having lived in Portland before moving to Boston.

Supporting local stores is what Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine Store manager Marie Stewart said brings people to the Old Port on Christmas Eve.

“People are beginning to more and more want to buy local,” she said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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