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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- “Katrina took a lot of things, but it can’t take Christmas.” That’s how Lance Rihner of Bay St. Louis explains why he insisted on decorating his house this year, despite the devastation that surrounds it.

Of the few homes left standing here and in neighboring Waveland, many are decked out with Christmas lights and decorations, even though the residents have many more-pressing concerns. Click here to see the decorated homes, tents and trailers and hear the residents talk about the holiday season.

“It’s important, especially for the children … even if it’s just a little styrofoam snowman in the front yard,” says Bob Welz of Waveland.

Brian and Suzanne Porter, Bay St. Louis residents who still have jobs, say they decorated to make the area more festive for those who lost everything.

"These you can see from Main Street, so I know they’re going to ride around and see," Suzanne says.

Many of the decorations are on FEMA trailers, and there’s even a trailer contest sponsored by the city of Bay St. Louis.

“You can’t put nails in a FEMA trailer, so we used duct tape,” Cowger says of the atypical arrangement.

Stacy Schutz of Waveland decided to combine Christmas with criticism for FEMA. After tiring of waiting for a FEMA trailer and then discovering she was pregnant, Schutz and her husband bought their own house on wheels. But they also pitched a mini-tent in front of a plywood sign with this greeting: “FEMA HOLIDAY HOUSING.”

Bay St. Louis resident Edward Jurkowski was still putting up his decorations: wreaths on two large oaks and a life-sized metal moose that he always dresses up for the season.

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This life-sized metal moose rode out Katrina from its spot on Main Street in Bay St. Louis. Click here to see how other residents are decorating their trailers and homes during the holiday season. (James Cheng / MSNBC.com)

The Main Street house, oaks and moose, who has always been secured with trailer ties, all survived Katrina. The house got an inch of water, while the moose has one slightly droopy ear now and lost its straw hat. The sunglasses, on the other hand, made it.

As Jurkowski put the finishing touches on the moose on a gorgeous afternoon, he hesitated before plugging in spotlights to showcase his display.

“There’s no guarantee that they’re going to light up after a hurricane,” was his caveat.

But the next night, as we drove past Jurkowski's house, the lights of Christmas were shining bright.

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82 COMMENTS

this was a very nice heart felt article

It takes more than a hurricane to overwhelm the human spirit.

It's wonderful to see the Christmas spirit is alive and well in the Gulf Coast. And just think, we now have a new use for duct tape. Way to go. Keep up those good spirits, I know it must be so very hard. I can't even begin to imagine.

I think it is wonderful that folks are putting up Christmas lights in these areas. If I am having a bad day this time of year I know driving around looking at lights instantly cheers me up so I have no doubt that these lights are a sign of hope and a bit of normalcy in a time of such upheaval for the people of the gulf coast. Merry Christmas all!!

I hear the pink flamingos are so popular looters are stealing them off of the lawns!

Mooses rule!!! after Katrina i might have a droopy ear too.....at least ya'll got ya lites ....have a merry christmas

These people are what the true meaning of Christmas is all about,,if I had the money I would donate it all to help them have a more merrier Christmas,,God Bless them all.

I hope you all have a Merry and blessed Christmas. We will be visiting you all and am grateful to see more people that I know that made it. God bless you all!

Merry Chris-Moose!

Hallelujah to Christmas lights to brighten a dreary scene! They all look lovely!

Thank you for bringing the spirit of Christmas to Waveland and Bay St. Louis. So many lost so much. This shows that the spirit of the people in this area cannot be broken.

It's nice to know that some things never change :-)

I still fear Katrina is not the Grinch this year. The Grinch looks more like that guy with big ears in the White House.

I would like some one to ask fema why are they taking so long in paying hurricane Katrina victims for our personal property claims.A few people have received their payments but too few and between, we could really use that money to start our lives over again. They are paying some and not others its not fair. The media have to get into everything before they will act on anything. So therefore i wish that a reporter could expose them so that we can get our payments sooner than later.

This is a nice story. Hope the kids are cheered by this. Maybe some of the parents too. Maybe Santa will bring a check from FEMA/Bush to help them rebuild their house. A heart felt Merry Christmas and a better New Year to everyone hurt by this. JibJab.com

Wow, how wonderful that with all you have been through that you remeber that this holiday is all about the children. Thank You so Very Much, Brenda

For the kids this is great you can keep the tent thou. Take care of the the little ones and keep the politics out of it.

Its good see the spirit of Christmas still lives on, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Katrina's devistation seems to have been extinguished by the abundance of love and kindness found in the human spirit. May all of you have joyful and prosperous times in 2006.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I think of all of you every day...

Once again these amazing people are showing us their resilence and determination to survive. How wonderful to see that no matter what has been thrown their way, they have found ways to cope. Everytime I read one of their stories my faith is renewed. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah and Happy Holidays to EVERYONE!

The Spirit of Christmas will live on even in the hardest and coldest of time. Merry Christmas to all

May the peace of Jesus Christ envelope the wonderful people of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, everyone in the Gulf Region... I was blessed to serve with Willow Creek Community Church, along with Heartland and Christian Life Church in Waveland where the camp was set up in the parking lot of K-Mart..."the saving place". The Spirit that lives here is incredible; and truly we were far more blessed than we could have ever blessed. Jesus will see you through to the other side. I love you all, people of Waveland! Merry Christmas...

It is wonderful to see that these folks are getting back on their feet. So many people reached out to them after Katrina hit. May God bless and supply all thier needs. Merry Christmas to all

We Mississippians are a touch bunch. We help each other out and still know the importance of family and neighbors. We love our land and our state. My wife and I leave Monday morning headed for Gulfport to bring a little N. Mississippi cheer to our family on the coast. This will be a Christmas we will never forget. Can't wait to get there. On a side note my wife is from Long Beach, MS and this will be her first trip to the coast since the storm and my second.

Christmas will live on. Send the websites about Katrina out to every contact that you have, keep it going. Don't forget how bad our companion animals have suffered, once long ago they had a loving home and now their family may be searching for them. Please check out hssm.org, we are all suffering here on the Mississippi coast.

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