By CBS3 Staff

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — For some, Christmas Eve is the perfect time to start their holiday shopping while others are just rounding out their lists. Shoppers who waited until the last minute across the region made their final purchases Thursday just hours before Santa Claus arrives in the Philadelphia area.

The parking lot of the Montgomery Mall remained crowded as it closed its doors at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“Everyone is trying to just get to the stores and buy presents as soon as they can before stuff closes,” one shopper said.

It was a mad dash at Airport Square in Montgomeryville as the holiday shopping season finally winds down.

“It’s a little crazy,” Ruth Hunsberger, of Harleysville, said.

“I was lucky, a couple of people let me go in front of them,” Tyreese Burton said, “I checked out pretty quick.”

With time running out, procrastinators had to hustle Thursday.

“I got to do all my shopping right now,” Peter Dipalma, of Chalfont said. “Last-minute shopping for me and I guess a lot of other people. The parking lot is packed.”

He’s right.

Over at Christmas Village in Center City, so many people were out Thursday taking one more walk around. Vendors there said it has been a good holiday season.

Eyewitness News also found people searching for gifts on Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill.

“Living around Chestnut Hill, it’s nice to support the small shops,” Joe Lavin said. “It’s also easier to keep social distancing and it’s a nice environment.”

And small shops like Busy Bee Toys are busy with customers, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

Nerice Kendter says the support has been overwhelming.

“It’s been overwhelming for me and my fellow business here in the Ave,” Kendter said. “The outpouring of love and concern from everyone has made such a difference for everyone because as you know we’ve been closed for so long. It’s really difficult in making people wait, but folks here have been super, super patient and excited to shop locally.”

Christmas Village and many malls in the area closed at 5 p.m., but some big box stores are open a little bit later.

There was quite the crowd at Target in Cherry Hill on Thursday evening as people rushed into the store before it closed even in this weather for their last-minute Christmas shopping.

“I got the stockings. I’ve got like stuffers in here,” Monique Little of Pennsauken said. “We’re going to blindfold them, and they have to spin around and pick the stocking. I’ve got money in them. I’ve got gift cards in them.”

One last-minute shopper even freestyled her own yuletide carol for Eyewitness News.

“Last minute Christmas shopping, like a bunny I’m hopping. Shopping like the grinch but no I don’t flinch,” Daisy Colon said.

Shoppers trekked through some nasty weather to make it to the big box store.

It won’t be a white Christmas this year, but the youngest last-minute shoppers say they’re still thankful.

“I can still see my family because they don’t have COVID,” Ethan Brown said.

The pandemic seems to be putting a damper on a season of joy, but South Jersey residents say it’s still the most wonderful time of the year.

CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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