While William Prickett slowly strolled through Paul Bunyan Mall, searching for Christmas decorations with his wife and children, he was reminded that his favorite family tradition was fast approaching.
Prickett, 31, looked forward to taking his three children, each of them one day at a time, out shopping to find Christmas gifts for their family.
It's a tradition that started out with his grandfather and father. It's tradition based on sentiment, not commercialism.
"It's something that means a lot to me," he said. "Hopefully it will mean as much for them."
Prickett has two daughters, Anna, 6, and Ava, 16 months, and a son, Aiden, 3 years old.
There's no rush to start shopping right away, but as soon as the snow starts falling, Prickett starts thinking about his shopping sprees with his children.
About four weeks before Christmas, Prickett starts his generation-spanning tradition, which he began doing with his father in Mason City, Iowa.
Prickett will select a day to take one of his kids out shopping. He has no system for picking a certain day, just usually whatever day works the best. He repeats the process for each of his children.
Before visiting the stores, Prickett will take his child out for a Christmas dinner. The restaurant is decided by the child, as long as it is a sit-down dinner where they can talk and discuss their "game plan."
They next will visit the mall, and various other stores, searching for whatever catches the child's eye.
For the Prickett family, it's about a father spending quality time with his children.
He wants to teach his children that Christmas is about giving, not receiving.
Not that picking out their own present isn't amusing, though.
Anna, the oldest, likes Barbie dolls and princesses. The younger two siblings enjoy Mickey Mouse or Dora the Explorer.
Prickett always lets his children pick out a gift they want. Each child also will pick out a gift for each of their siblings, as well as their mother.
Once the presents are selected, they get them professionally wrapped, just one more element to make the gift meaningful and add to the excitement. His children always become eager, trying to find any hint as to what lies beneath the wrapping.
Last year, Prickett happened to be at Paul Bunyan Mall with his children when he spotted a paint-your-own pottery stand by Glazed and Amused.
His children were able to customize their own plates with handprints, paints and decorations.
When they finished, and the plates were glazed, they gave them to their mother, Suzi, as a Christmas gift.
The plates turned out to be a favorite of the whole family because of the personal touches.
Suzi doesn't have any particular shopping-related traditions, but she enjoys getting her kids together to watch "A Christmas Story" each year. They also find time to watch "White Christmas."
Today, many holiday shoppers find their gifts online, but Prickett doesn't think he'll be doing his Christmas shopping online anytime soon.
Prickett said he also thinks online shopping takes away from the community. He often visits smaller, hometown stores to find a suitable gift.
"I don't want to ruin a tradition by online shopping," Prickett said. "That takes half the fun out of it."
He prefers taking his time, walking around with each one of his kids, trying to find the perfect gift.
"I hope it continues with my kids," Prickett said. "Watching them grow and smile and have fun is equally as fun for me now as it was when I was a kid."