Jody Miller is doing her best.
The only tree she could squeeze into the temporary apartment she is sharing with her husband this Christmas was too tiny to decorate. So she strung up lights above the fireplace, pinned stockings to the front door and lined up three glowing reindeer on the patio wall.
It feels festive. But Christmas won't be the same without all the couple's friends and neighbors from the Oakridge Mobile Home Park.
The close-knit community once celebrated the major holidays together. But the residents have scattered since fire erupted last month in the hills above Sylmar and destroyed 487 of the park's 608 homes.
"I went to visit my house the other day and cried," Miller said. "The park is empty now and it's like a cemetery."
They were not the only ones displaced this year by wildfires. At least 600 families won't be celebrating at home today in the Los Angeles area because they were burned out of their houses, according to the American Red Cross.
Many have sought temporary refuge with friends and relatives while they wait for insurance payouts. The Millers and some 20 other Oakridge families have rented apartments at the FountainGlen complex in Stevenson Ranch.
It helps to have a few familiar faces around for the holidays, Miller says -- people who will swap stories and wish you a cheery "Merry Christmas" when you walk the dog.
"We're all putting on a very good front," she said.
Miller, 57, counts herself lucky. Her house suffered severe smoke damage, but it's still standing. Her sister, Teri Wagoner, lost everything. Wagoner now lives in an apartment on the floor above Miller. Both families will need all the savings they can muster to rebuild, so Christmas will be a modest affair.
"My husband and I are exchanging cards," Miller said. They plan to head over early this morning to a nephew's house to help set up a new train set. But there won't be gifts for anybody over the age of 10.
By comparison, residents say, Christmas at Oakridge was something to behold. The neat, winding rows of factory-ordered homes twinkled with fairy lights strung up along the rooftops. Blow-up Santas and snowmen jostled for space with reindeer and sleighs.
"Oh, my goodness, the place looked like a winter wonderland," said Arlene Kosec, 75.
Like many of the park's elder residents, the retired financial analyst misses her old social life there, especially at this time of year.
Besides the usual potluck and bingo nights, there was always a huge Christmas party at the recreation club, she said. Santa Claus came by with presents for the children, and prizes were handed out for the best-decorated residences. Neighbors also dropped by one another's homes for coffee and cake and to exchange small gifts.
Kosec won't be doing any of that today.
"There's nothing to really get happy about. I'm homeless," she said. "Maybe next Christmas I'll have something to celebrate."
Kosec says she will spend the day with her 93-year-old friend, Betty Patterson, who has taken her in since Kosec fled her home with nothing but a jacket, a checkbook and her station wagon.
The women met more than 10 years ago on a busy morning at the local McDonald's. Patterson was looking for a place to sit and Kosec offered to share her table. They now share twin beds in Patterson's bedroom.
The women didn't have space for a tree this year. But Patterson's son took them out for dinner on Christmas Eve and invited them to join him at a friend's house today.
Numerous people and companies have chipped in to make the holidays a little brighter for Oakridge residents and other fire victims. Kosec attended a party last weekend hosted by City Councilman Richard Alarcon at Sylmar High School, where she collected a new set of pots and pans. Singer Billy Ray Cyrus and his daughter Miley Cyrus, better known as TV star Hannah Montana, asked the Red Cross to distribute $100 gift certificates on their behalf to buy toys for about 40 displaced children.
Despite their losses, Oakridge residents say the tragedy has made them focus on the real meaning of Christmas: "Faith, family and friends," Miller said.
The Corral family, who moved back to the park three years ago after a 10-year absence, is counting its blessings and trying not dwell on the past.
"I have no yardwork," Fernando Corral, 44, said brightly. "We're not out in the streets."
When the flames started racing down the hillside, Corral and his two boys, 13-year-old Jonathan and 10-year-old Jason, ran door to door rousing neighbors from their sleep.
Their home was leveled. "Only the bricks were standing," Corral said.
They are now staying in a small house at the back of his late mother's home, which is rented out to a cousin. "It's not too big, but it's not that uncomfortable," Corral said.
At first, the boys treated the experience like an unexpected vacation. But now they are tired of living with relatives and want to go back home to Oakridge, Corral said.
"For our kids, it was like a park," he said. "They love it there, and I like it because it is safe for them."
Corral, a UPS driver, plans to work through the holidays so he can save up as much money as he can. But he said he would take time out today to be with his family. He and wife Elva have never gone overboard for Christmas, but he said they have always tried to get the boys the one gift they really wanted.
"This year we're not going to be able to do that," Corral said. "They lost their skateboards [in the fire], but the ones they want are pretty expensive."
Instead, he bought a cheaper version and promised to make it up to them when the family is back on its feet.
"It gets depressing when I think about it: You cannot spend Christmas in your own house," Corral said. "But as long as you're healthy, you're alive and you have a job, you can deal with the rest."