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Ann

80 years old

Lives in La Mesa

Interviewed at Kohl's Santee

I'm shopping for just my family -- my daughter and grandchildren. Our Christmas is Christmas Eve. That is our family tradition. I have been doing this all my life. I grew up with that. I'm from Germany, and always Christmas Eve was the big thing. You go to church and then you have Christmas when you come home from church that evening. As a child, I remember the snow, up to my chin. I remember the bustle, the getting ready, the baking, the house smelling so good, and the traditional things you have there. We didn't do the lights outside of the houses. My favorite Christmas carol is "Silent Night," but in German, "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht." My worst Christmases were during the war. Those were bad times. We were bombed, and then we were in the Russian occupation. You don't like to look back to that; you go forward. My fondest Christmas memories were as a child growing up, being with the family. As long as you were with your family, it's a merry Christmas.

Joe

52 years old

Lives in Santee

Interviewed at Kohl's Santee

I haven't decided how much I am going to spend on Christmas gifts. I don't usually do a firm Christmas budget because I usually end up exceeding whatever I plan anyway. My two boys will get the most expensive gifts this year. When I was growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, the oldest working child in the family bought the Christmas tree. That was his Christmas gift. There were seven kids, my parents, and my grandparents. There weren't a lot of presents -- we were pretty poor -- but everybody got together and trimmed the tree. The older kids went to Catholic Church on Christmas Eve, the younger group went with the folks on Christmas Day. We had presents Christmas morning, a big meal early Christmas afternoon. When I was seven, I got a used bicycle. My father had bought it and repainted it, and that was the best Christmas gift ever. It was really icy. I crashed a lot, but it was great. The one gift I wanted and never received was a motorcycle. At my house we do a lot of decorations: lights, figures, trees, baubles, stuff around the fireplace, the whole thing.

Jeff

27 years old

Lives in Olympia, Washington

Interviewed at Kohl's Santee

I plan on spending a couple hundred bucks on Christmas gifts this year. I am a college kid, so I have a limited budget. My nephew gets the most expensive gift. He is two years old, and he is the youngest one in the family. My mom and my aunt both go overboard with decorations. They both probably spend like $500 to $600 a year just on new Christmas decorations. We had the traditional Christmas when I was growing up: Christmas tree, going to my aunt and uncle's for Christmas Day. We'd open our gifts early in the morning at our place, and then we'd go to my aunt and uncle's and then open more gifts right around noon or one o'clock and then have Christmas dinner. There was always more food than anybody could actually eat. It could possibly be turkey and ham; my uncle has a farm, so he catches his own turkeys. I was pretty spoiled; I don't remember any gift that I wanted that I didn't get. I remember getting a castle Lego set one year that I really wanted, the big set that they had with the whole castle and the knights. I was probably nine at the time.... My favorite Christmas song is "Frosty the Snowman." The worst Christmas I'd have to say was the year that we had an ice storm, so we had no power. My parents live out in the middle of nowhere. We couldn't even leave because snow had compacted into ice, so when my dad tried to back the car out the wheels were just spinning. We didn't go anywhere that year.

Victor

27 years old

Lives in La Mesa

Interviewed at Westfield Shoppingtown Parkway

I'm going to spend anywhere from $1000 to $1500 on gifts this Christmas. My fiancée will get the most expensive gift. Her gift is half the budget; it is a necklace.... Big tree, lots of decorations, ornaments -- just stuff that I have collected -- nice lights, good lighting scheme, and always a real cut tree.... Christmas growing up: gifts, lots of gifts. I was a Navy brat, so we moved around, but we actually had family come out wherever we were for Christmas. My dad would go all out with lights and everything. A couple of years we did reindeer, and then a couple of years we did a snowman in the front of the house and lights everywhere. What symbolized Christmas in our household was the food. My mom's Filipino and my father is Mexican, so we had a whole variety of food, a cross section of different stuff. We had a dessert called a halo-halo; it is kind of like a slushy ice cream. And we had Filipino cheesecake, which is juicy and sweet. And we had all sorts of adobo -- chicken adobo, pork adobo -- and of course pansit. And then my dad had his tamales, oh, man.... The GI Joe aircraft carrier, that was the one thing that I always wanted and I never got it. It wasn't because they didn't want to get it for me. Every year, when it came time to buy it, the stores didn't have it. They were sold out. It was huge -- it was almost as long as this bench. And every year, my dad tried to get it, and then the last year he even special ordered it, but they messed up the order. But then Hasbro gave me a whole bunch of Destro's commandos. They gave me the whole set for that Christmas. I will never forget that one. We have a Filipino version of the song "Merry Merry Christmas"; it is called "Maligayang Pasko." That's my favorite Christmas song. The favorite gift I ever gave was two years ago. I built my friend a PC. He always wanted a gaming PC. I bought the parts, and I put it together. His brother had committed suicide that year, and he was going through a rough time of it. That was what made it so special.

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