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A Family Season

December 25, 1991|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA

Shiny toys for a child who will never play with them. Burgers from McDonald's and two bottles of beer--a favorite midnight snack. Garlands, tinsel, banners and giant plastic Santas that would seem garish anywhere else.

Since the 1930s, families have come to Calvary Cemetery in East L.A. to decorate graves during the holidays. Many of the visitors work silently. Others laugh as they recall happier times. They kiss engraved photos on the tombstones. They sit and pray. They hug the earth. They sob.

Marina Mata, 11, right, says creating an ornament for a graveside tree helped ease the sorrow over her grandmother's death last week.

Jose and Monica Fagoaga, left, have decorated their daughter's grave each Christmas since she was killed in a car accident two years ago. Cynthia Vanessa was 3. She loved clowns and balloons.

"She was our little angel," her father says. His wife kneels and gingerly places her fingertips on the image of her daughter's face engraved in the memorial stone.

"Christmas is a time when people are with their families, and on Christmas Day we will be with our little girl."

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