This year several days before my birthday I received a totally unexpected package from one of my nieces. I sent her a short e-mail letting her know that her present had arrived and that I would save it till my birthday to open. She replied with a comment that it wasn't a present, but a gift, causing me to seek more information on the difference. When I had no luck with my faithful pal Google, I wrote Rebecca again, this time asking for an explanation. I can't seem to find it right now, but it defined the difference very clearly.
A present is when someone gives you something you have asked for or put on a list. Perhaps the person is on your list from some long time connection or custom and you feel that you must come up with some sort of rememberance, whether it's the exact right thing or not. You buy it, then you "present" it.
On the other hand, a gift is usually something totally unexpected that the giver knows will please and delight you. There are no strings attached, and there is no expectation of anything in return--not even a thank you. You just give it.
Either a gift or a present is an act of love, but gifts are truly special. I think I'm going to give a lot of presents this year, but I want to also give a few gifts. I hope you do too.