November 24, 2003
Patti Russell -- who lives in Columbia with her husband and two daughters, ages 8 and 4 -- grew up in Dracut, a mostly Catholic town 20 miles north of Boston.
"Christmas was everywhere -- in the schools, main streets shop windows, beautifully adorned churches, mangers in the town square and lights and wreaths on everyone's houses," she said.
She grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, and her parents spent about $500 a year on Christmas -- including gifts, food and decorating -- for a family of six.
Russell, who works part-time in the retail gardening industry, and her husband, Rick, an active duty U.S. Army officer, plan to spend about $700 for about a dozen family members. That's about the same as last year. They'll shop at a variety of stores.
"Typically, we do not go overboard at Christmas," she said. "Part of this is due to the fact that since we are a military family and live away from family, we do not have the opportunity to exchange gifts face to face."
Purnell Clark, of Elkridge, grew up in Newport News, Va., with seven sisters and six brothers.
He said the family spent between $6,000 and $7,000 every Christmas, which includes food.
Clark, who is single, works at the Target Stores Inc. outlet in Columbia as a sales floor employee. He's not sure how many presents he will be buying this year. He has "so many good friends."
Last year, he only bought presents for family members. Clark said he plans to spend more this year. Last year, he bought 10 gift cards for $20 each.
"I plan to spend more, even though prices have gone up, because my friends and family mean a lot to me."
Lynette Smith, an East Baltimore resident, remembered that "Christmas was huge" for her -- growing up with five siblings.
They received "lots of gifts," she said.
Even still, she doesn't plan to spend much money this year on gifts.
"I don't make enough money," said Smith, the donations coordinator for Vehicles for Change, an organization that repairs donated cars for low-income families in the Baltimore region. She'll spend about $300 for about five people and most likely will shop at Wal-Mart, Target and Toys "R" Us.
"I save a lot," said Isaac Rupert, a Southwest Baltimore resident who said he'll likely spend about $1,500 this year on gifts -- about $1,000 more than last year.
Rupert, who registers company meetings at the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association, said he grew up in a family that showered him and his brother with gifts. He intends to do the same for members of his family and about 10 children in his neighborhood.
"I'm a blessed child, and I don't have to want for anything."
-- Compiled by Tawanda W. Johnson