Putting up Christmas decorations early can make you a more cheerful person, psychologists say. Tinsel, fairy lights and holiday baubles, they say, elicit the kind of excitement and satisfaction that produce happy hormones.
As an antidote to COVID anxiety, society and etiquette doyenne Pacita “Baby” Cruz Vazquez invoked the holiday spirit in October.
A creative homemaker, she decorates spaces according to seasons. This year, however, she eschewed Halloween witches, pumpkins and autumn leaves in favor of metallic colors and Santa’s mischievous elves. Halloween symbols of horror just felt “depressing” in this pandemic, she explains. “I decided to treat my grandchildren to something festive instead.”Out came her collection of Santa’s elves, evoking happy memories with family and friends. Also, Vasquez says, “It’s time the old man’s hardworking assistants took center stage.”
Vazquez lives in an elegant apartment building where she owns several units. The apartment that serves as her office and intimate entertaining space spotlights elves decor acquired from travels around Europe and the United States.
At the foyer, the guest is welcomed by an old elf in red knickers, a green-and-gold jacket and striped socks. With each one positioned just as strategically, and with their trademark impish smiles, the elves invariably bring cheer.
Each piece is a product of artisanship, notes Vazquez as she calls attention to the fine details of the facial expressions, and the satin-and-velvet finery adorned with gold embroidered trimmings. “I like the richness of the craftsmanship,” she says. “Each one was obviously made with love.”
On the console table is a tableaux of wooden elves outfitted in traditional red and green. (One of them sits atop a large slab of white quartz stone suggestive of snow.) They surround a Santa Claus doll, a standout for its metallic costume and silvery sleigh with herd of reindeer.
Vazquez took the décor to new heights by decking the Murano chandelier. She incorporated natural elements—silver-dusted pine cones and evergreen leaves with crystal balls, swags of crystal beads and white silk flowers—for a homey feel.
“The natural materials softened the look,” she says. “Those branches are real; they are changed when they dry up.”
For a touch of humor, more elves, tiny ones, dangle from the chandelier’s curved arms. In the living room, a mechanical elf climbs up and down a ladder to popular Christmas tunes.
The Christmas theme is, of course, not fully achieved without a nativity scene. Vazquez’s ivory Baby Jesus rests in an intricately carved manger, in a white gown with gold trimmings bought from a supplier of church vestments in Divisoria.
With a few more exquisite pieces, her table settings compete for attention. The daytime dining table is lined with Rosenthal porcelain angels on a banca by Kenneth Cobonpue. A porcelain angel by Lladro, handmade of course, resting on the black glass-topped coffee table, adds a peaceful vibe.
For a recent dinner setting, she took an understated, elegant approach. The table, covered with a set of embroidered European lace tablecloth and napkins, reflected the hostess’ femininity. Purple orchids dotted the table along with customary gifts for the guests. Black raw silk boxes, beribboned and accented with metallic trimmings, likewise serves as décor. Gold charger plates, patterned china, flatware from Hermés and gold-rimmed goblets added another layer of luxury. For contrast, black ivory chopsticks (for Japanese hors d’ouevres) rested on a black origami holder.
“I entertain a younger group here,” says Vasquez. The older group—husband Danny’s friends—go upstairs.”
She and property developer Daniel “Danny” Vazquez have their sleeping quarters in another upper floor apartment. In that unit, steel Christmas trees are fully decked with customary decorations of golden balls, LED candles, pine tree leaves and sunburst patterns of white twigs with crystal beads. Perched on gold turned pedestals, elves with pointy ears and dressed in red-and-black costumes set off the traditional elements.
A vintage crystal chandelier from France lends formality to the open-plan area. Adorned with white silken hoyas, fresh pine leaves and dried leaves coated with silver and dangling gold balls and stars, it catches the eye with its gleaming presence.
This chandelier shines above the dining table, decked with two silver peacocks from India, a gift from her husband. The birds gaze at the wreath centerpiece made of berries, peonies and white heart-leaf hoyas.
As we write, Vazquez is still decorating her other apartments.
She loves Christmas and its symbols, she says, for the way they never fail to reconnect with beautiful memories and good feelings. “We could all use joy in these times. I’m having it right now.”