A few of their favorite things

Times Staff Writer

Every year, we rummage through our closets, cupboards, garages -- wherever we've stored the icons and ornaments that symbolize the holidays. They may be goofy or divine. Priceless or worthless. What matters is that they have value far beyond anything monetary. We asked a few L.A. notables: What is your favorite, and why?

Carine Fabius

Owner of Galerie Lakaye

Every year I pull out a painted metal wreath made by Haitian artisans and hang it on my door. I like the idea that I get to help leave a pine tree in a beautiful forest and in the process celebrate the folk artists of my native Haiti.

Ruben Martinez

Author and professor of English at Loyola Marymount University

There is a nacimiento I've carried around for years. I bought it in Guatemala, when I lived there during the civil war in the 1980s. It was a dark, bloody time, and the nativity -- handcrafted by Indians at a time when Indians were being massacred -- seemed to perfectly embody Latin American Catholicism's sense of hope against all hope.

Frederica von Stade

Mezzo-soprano, performing with the Los Angeles Opera this month

My favorite holiday things are ornaments that I made with my daughters Jenny and Lisa from flour and salt in Milan about 25 years ago. Those ornaments come out every year.

Zev Yaroslavsky

Los Angeles County supervisor

Our family celebrated Hanukkah by lighting a menorah that my sister gave us 30 years ago as a gift from Jerusalem. When our kids were growing up, the menorah ceremony was not just about lighting the candles on each of the eight nights of the holiday. Our family would gather around the menorah, light the candles, sing and then talk about a situation in the world that year, Jewish or not, which could be viewed as a struggle for personal, political or religious freedom -- a kind of current-day Hanukkah.

Blair H. Taylor

President and chief executive, Los Angeles Urban League

The favorite Christmas item in my home is a children's Bible, which tells the story of Christmas with animation and words. My wife and I take this book out to read it with our four children. We use the Bible to instill in them, and discuss, the true and biblical meaning of Christmas.

To read more stories of holiday talismans, look for an expanded version of this story at www.latimes/features/home.

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