CAPITOLA -- There are lots of holiday traditions -- baking, caroling, decorating, donating and visiting Santa among others.
For many, a deeply held tradition year after year is shopping for Christmas presents at the very last moment possible before the big day.
Saturday was a classic example of that practice with crowds filling local shopping centers, despite the stormy weather.
"I'm doing this because I just got paid," said Watsonville resident Nayeli Arriaga, who left the Capitola Mall carrying several department store bags loaded with gifts. "It's really crowded, it's pretty crazy."
Retailers have extended hours and dropped prices on some merchandise in a final holiday season push.
Toys R Us stores nationwide began an 88-hour, all-day-all-night marathon Friday that continues until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Macy's welcomed shoppers for 48 straight hours at most of its stores, including Capitola, on this final weekend before Christmas. Macy's will close at midnight Sunday.
Target is open 8 a.m.-midnight Sunday and 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Santa Cruz resident Brian Sherin and his partner Liana Felix joined the frenzy of shoppers at the Capitola Mall on Saturday, feeling lucky to have snagged a parking spot not far from a mall entrance.
They were buying clothing gifts for their sons, ages 15 and 13.
"It's normal to be here on the last weekend before Christmas," Sherin said. "We always wait until
Joy Clay showed her Christmas spirit on Saturday by wearing a red Santa hat while she scoped out stocking stuffers to give her grandchildren.
"I'm just finishing up the details," said Clay, a Santa Cruz resident. "I'm usually doing something that last weekend every year."
In Watsonville, Target saw a mad dash of shoppers throughout the day.
Kevin Allshouse brought his 4-year-old daughter to help him pick out gifts for his brother and other relatives.
Allshouse, 34, said he felt comfortable spending a little more money this year than last because of a stable job with Monterey-Salinas Transit.
"I am a procrastinator by nature," Allshouse said. "The best ideas come together at the end."
Santa Cruz resident Esmeralda Vasquez, 30, was prepared to spend about $100 each on her mother and two sisters.
She was also purchasing gifts for a needy family she adopted through a local charity for the holiday season.
Vasquez said she chose to shop at Target because the store "has everything in there."
Shopping just three days before Christmas is nothing new for her.
"This year just went by really fast," Vasquez said. "I'm trying to do it all today."
Shoppers such as Maria and Vanessa Neu, mother and daughter, have already wrapped up their gift-buying for others.
On Saturday, they found themselves taking advantage of the deep discounts offered by some mall retailers for their own wardrobes.
"We found some really good deals," Vanessa Neu, 28, said. "I've never shopped this close to Christmas before."
Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom