Christmas has helped some people in the grieving Connecticut town of Newtown cope a little better with the shooting tragedy that killed 20 schoolchildren, while others have yet to feel the holiday joy.
Smiles returned for those taking a respite from the mourning now that funerals for the victims have concluded. For the crestfallen, the holiday spirit was absent in a town that just buried its children.
"We're getting through this with our faith and our prayer. People are smiling a little more now," said John Barry, owner of an information technology staffing company. "The week was so horrible. Now it's time to celebrate Christmas."
People make their way to a snow covered memorial in Newtown Connecticut - a town still blanketed in grief.
"We wanted to contribute and bring some teddy bears for the families, you know, of these kids and the teachers who are not here today because of some tragic moment, so we just wanted to come down and show support for the families - obviously that will be never be the same again, whose holidays will never be.”said Jesus Carrion, visitor from Boston, Massachusetts
This largely Christian town was shaken on the morning of Dec. 14, when a 20-year-old gunman armed with a military-style assault rifle shot dead 20 children aged 6 and 7 and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Little is known about the shooter, Adam Lanza, who also killed his mother before the rampage and later himself to create a death toll of 28 in a tragedy that has revitalized the debate over U.S. gun control laws.
The sadness has moved some to act. Makeshift monuments to the dead have popped up all over town, funds have been raised, and many visitors have made a pilgrimage to Newtown, offering support.
"It doesn't feel like Christmas. It's too sad to feel like Christmas," said Joanne Brunetti of Newtown.
The mood was more uplifting at Christmas Eve Mass on Monday night at Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which held its biggest service at the high school auditorium.
Parishioners Dan and Michelle McAloon of Newtown decided to go Christmas caroling this year for the first time, gathering other families and children to roam a neighborhood where the families of three victims live.
"We were just spreading some cheer, trying to make the situation a little better," Michelle McAloon said.
"They all smiled, and they all cried a little," she said of the victims' families.
Christmas Eve Mass featured a pageant that told the Christian story of Jesus' birth. One of the more poignant moments came when people applauded a group of two dozen little girls dressed as angels. They all knew shooting victim Olivia Engel, 6, was supposed to be among them.
"I highly recommend that before you rip open those gifts, say a prayer for those children," Monsignor Robert Weiss told parishioners. "Then give your own children a hug."
A few more photosof a somber show of support in Newtown at Christmas.
Angel figurines rest near a Christmas tree at a makeshift memorial for victims who died in the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut December 18, 2012.
A Christmas stocking stuffed with a white rose for six-year-old Charlotte Bacon, who was killed in the December 14 shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, hangs in a memorial for the victims of the shootings in Sandy Hook village in Newtown.
A boy touches stockings, representing those killed in the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on Christmas morning in Sandy Hook Village in Newtown.
A sign sits at a memorial for those killed in the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on Christmas morning in Newtown.
Snow blankets a cross and the grave of six-year-old Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, one of 20 schoolchildren killed in the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on Christmas at the Newtown Village Cemetery in Newtown.
An image of six-year-old Jesse McCord Lewis, one of 20 schoolchildren killed in the December 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, sits on a snow-covered teddy bear on Christmas morning in Newtown, Connecticut December 25, 2012.