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Roy

54 years old

Lives in El Cajon

Interviewed at Westfield Shoppingtown Parkway

I am budgeting right around $200, but it looks like it is going to be quite a bit more than that because my daughter wants these video games for her Playstation 2, and they are $50 a whack. We get the basic tree. We always get a fresh one every year because we like the smell of it. We put stuff on the tree that we've collected over the years. I grew up back in the Midwest, in Kansas, and I remember I think the best Christmas I had. I was five years old. I got the whole set of Tonka trucks that I always wanted. The old stamped metal ones. I think my grandkids are still playing with them. It wasn't a religious holiday, it was just a big family get-together. We had everyone coming over for Christmas dinner: grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. There were four of us in the house. My mom baked and cooked. She'd start the day before Christmas cooking and end up in late afternoon on Christmas, still cooking and baking -- tables full of pies and baked goods. Really I can't remember a gift that I wanted and didn't get. I basically got everything that I wanted. Of course, I didn't want all that much, and then I was pretty well happy with what I did get. Kids today, they want everything they see. My worst Christmas was in 1997 when my ex left the day before Christmas and took my three-year-old daughter with her. That was my worst one.... I wrap my own gifts. I learned by trial and error. What makes me cry at Christmas is how happy the kids are with their Christmas gifts. Tears of joy.

Alexander

18 years old

Lives in Carmel Mountain

Interviewed at Westfield Shoppingtown Parkway

Hopefully, I'll spend under 400 bucks this Christmas. My girlfriend gets the most expensive gift, but I've got no idea what I'm going to get her. I like to get big trees, but my mom wants to get a small one because she is tired of cleaning up all the needles. I don't do a tree at my own place -- it is too expensive -- just at my mom's. It's decorated with things we've collected over the years usually, like baby's-first-Christmas kind of stuff. Lot of theme stuff too, like color-coordinated things.... My favorite Christmas gift, well my grandfather got me these cowboy boots from Mexico when I was three. I wore them for years. They were, like, oversized boots. I've never really had a bad Christmas, actually. I always go to midnight Mass. We gave gifts on Christmas Eve because we are Spanish. In Spain it is the tradition to do the gifts then or on January 6th, the Three Kings Day. But we don't do that here. We do gifts around 11:00, before we go to midnight Mass. For food, it was either turkey or ham, lot of stuffing. I remember last year my mom cooked saffron rice and chicken -- arroz con pollo. My parents taught me how to wrap gifts when I was little because they didn't want to wrap them.... I don't like Christmas music, it is so annoying. I hate it when they start playing it in early November. But if I had to pick a favorite Christmas song it would be "Mele Kalikimaka" because it is just funny.... My grandparents told me Christmas in Cuba or Spain was a lot different. There weren't many presents because presents were usually given on the Three Kings Day. All you got on Christmas usually was candy.... What makes me cry at Christmas? I've never cried at Christmas.

Michael

42 years old

Lives in Yuma

Interviewed at Westfield Shoppingtown Parkway

I'm going to spend about $2000. I've got half of that right here in this shopping cart. My four grandchildren get the most expensive gifts -- mostly LeapFrogs, the electronic learning games, that kind of stuff. My oldest granddaughter, she likes Bratz, so we are spending like $60 to $80 a pop on different Bratz play sets. I'm also buying for two adult stepdaughters, their significant others, and of course my wife. Outside at our house we have lights, and on the inside we decorate the living room. Each year we get more and more. The first year that we were in Yuma, we just had one string of lights right around the top of the house. Now we've got them all over. Next year we are going to do some lawn things, like the deer that move their heads, stuff like that. We've got an inflatable Santa that is eight feet tall. We try to do a little bit more each year. We always do our gift opening on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is relaxation day. My wife has been trying to get me to go to church, but I feel uncomfortable in a church. It just feels kind of weird.... Christmas Eve, 1994, the engagement ring I gave to my wife, that's my favorite gift given. We play different sorts of music at Christmas. Looking at my dad's picture makes me cry at Christmas. He passed away in '91; he was a really cool guy. This is the time of year I think of him, because he was really big on family stuff and family get-togethers and stuff like that. We always had good Christmases, as far back as I can remember. My dad and stepmom, they always spent $200 to $300 per kid. The worst Christmas was in 1999 when I filed bankruptcy.... I can't stand stuffing. I used to love it when I was little, but I don't even like the smell of it now. My stepmom, the one that I grew up with, she was from Chattanooga, Tennessee, so she was a hillbilly. So we ate a lot of cornbread and grits and buttermilk and just you name it. Because they didn't really celebrate Christmas in the Philippines -- not like we do here -- my dad didn't really bring any Christmas traditions with him. The one thing I really got passed down from him was his homemade recipe from the Philippines that I sort of Americanized so that it would taste better for us. It is adobo, and if you cook it like they do in the Philippines, it is really gross. It's got fish in it, kind of a stew. But this one, basically it is just water, vinegar, bay leaves, salt and pepper, cloves of garlic, and you can put either chicken or beef in it, or pork -- we always do chicken -- and just let it simmer.

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