Christmas Eve at ‘St. Candlestick’

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Thousandsof faithful flocked to Monster Park Sunday, not to attend a Christmas Eve mass but rather to celebrate Christmas Eve en masse with other San Francisco 49ers fans.

Fans shed the red and green of the holidays for the scarlet and gold of the 49ers, as the team attempted to take another step toward winning the NFC West Division over the Seattle Seahawks. The Arizona Cardinals ruined that holiday hope by eliminating the 49ers from playoff contention with a 26-20 win.

In their 60-year history, the 49ers were 2-1 in Christmas Eve games before Sunday, but now they’re an even .500 on the holiday.

The 49ers organization took the opportunity to honor its Faithful with Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday.

Car exhaust and grill smoke mixed with the overcast day before the game, and fans spoke of the festive holiday spirit making its way into the stadium’s parking lots, where bumpers became kitchen counters and tailgates dinner tables. Many in the parking lot said that missing a game because of the holiday wasn’t really an option they considered.

Fifteen-year season ticket holder Rolanda Pierre-Dixon attends home games with her sister and friends, and said that her family had “no choice in the matter” of whether she would take in the Christmas Eve game.

“It takes a lot to come out on Christmas Eve,” Pierre-Dixon said.

George Morello Jr., a fourth-generation San Franciscan whose family has had season tickets since 1955, said his regular crew of friends missed the game to attend church services for the holiday.

“I’ll go tomorrow because I’m going to St. Candlestick today,” Morello said.

Billy Graham, a six-year season ticket holder and PG&E serviceman from San Jose, said the environment before Sunday’s game felt like a Monday Night game.

“Christmas Eve games are great because everybody’s in a happy mood,” said Graham, who had some “Christmas chicken” on the grill while he tailgated with his wife, Adrienne, and brother-in-law Steve Mason. Mason traveled from Everett, Wash., to attend the game.

Trevor Lady, a Redlands University senior, and his friend Jeff Macie have attended at least one game a year for the past four years, and their families weren’t pleased that Sunday would be their lone opportunity to continue that tradition.

“The family wasn’t too happy with me missing Christmas Eve, but we have to make one game a year,” Lady said.

The confluence of football with holiday tradition was too much to pass up for 10-year season ticket holder and San Mateo resident John Aguilar.

“Football’s already such a tradition. It’s a nice way to start the holiday season,” Aguilar said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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