Omicron isn’t stopping at least one Christmas tradition — last-minute shopping

Shoppers lined up outside South Jersey shops Friday, despite the recent spike in omicron cases.

A shopper carries her bags after leaving a department store in Oxford Street on Christmas Eve in London, Friday, Dec. 24, 2021. The emergence of the new COVID-19 omicron variant and the world's desperate and likely futile attempts to keep it at bay are reminders of what scientists have warned for months: The coronavirus will thrive as long as vast parts of the world lack vaccines

A shopper carries her bags after leaving a department store in Oxford Street on Christmas Eve in London, Friday, Dec. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Ask us about COVID-19: What questions do you have about the coronavirus and vaccines?

The recent spike of omicron cases isn’t stopping shoppers from partaking in that age-old Christmas Eve tradition of scrambling for presents and food before the lights go down for Santa.

As the sun rose Friday morning, people lined up outside of the Macy’s store at Cherry Hill Mall.

Classy Carter of Camden arrived at Macy’s almost an hour before the store opened and rearranged the rear of her SUV to accept the gifts she was out to purchase. She said you can only buy so much online.

“But you’re also just among people who are in the spirit as well,” Carter said. “So it’s a good way to start the holiday spirit of chaos.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor
Classy Carter of Camden prepares her SUV for packages on Dec. 24. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Carter said she wasn’t surprised that there were fewer than a dozen cars in the enormous Cherry Hill Mall lot as the store opened at 7 a.m. People were missing out on a golden window, she added.

“I get to shop and then go home, take a nap and then get ready for tomorrow,” she said.

A nearly empty parking lot at the Macy’s in Cherry Hill in the early hours of Dec. 24. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Anne Marie Gibbons of South Philadelphia said she ventured out early only to purchase a gift she missed when she was shopping earlier.

“I came over here for one gift for my husband — just that one last gift.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Meanwhile, Carole Smith of South Philadelphia said she came early to buy a gift for her aunt and wasn’t about to admit to her it came at the last minute.

For one shopper who called himself Prince Sean,  last-minute shopping was the solution to a packed schedule. “Working overtime all week, I didn’t have time to go shopping,” he said. He made the trip quick, he said.

The malls weren’t the only places crowded with customers. Specialty food stores also had people lined up outside their door before their official opening in South Jersey.

Severino’s Pasta in Westmont is a cult favorite because of their fresh pastas. The raviolis are a local classic for shoppers like Ruth Brownell, who got up early to make it to the pasta store an hour before it opened.

“Raviolis, there’s nothing better, that’s for tomorrow Christmas Day,” she said. “Turkey was Thanksgiving, Christmas is Raviolis.”

Just down the road at Arnie’s Butcher shop in Cherry Hill, people lined up around the corner for fresh meat.

Chris Scarduzzio drove about 15 miles to pick up his ham, shrimp, and a few side dishes. He came ready to wait.

“I had soccer chairs in my car so I said I’m going to think ahead and bring a chair because I don’t know how long I am going to be here,” he said.

Chris Scarduzio sits and waits to pick up his food order at Arnie’s butcher shop in Cherry Hill on Dec. 24. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Behind Scarduzzio in line, Melissa Davis waited patiently to pick up the necessary ingredients for a dinner she planned to host. She was shopping for 12 invited guests.

“A little of everything, fillet, chicken, mac and cheese, potatoes, everyone’s vaccinated, we’ll have the windows open. It will be good.”

Originally, Davis planned for an even larger holiday meal. The recent omicron surge had cut her guest list from 20 to 12 after 8 of her guests went into quarantine because of positive COVID tests. She hopes she can freeze her leftovers.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal