Florist Badang Rueda said that you have to choose the colors that you like for your Christmas tree. A very sensible advice. That way you get to keep the ornaments and reuse them for years.
Public relations consultant Bess Howe has had the same decorations for the past five years. And she plans on sticking with them for a few more years.
“Every year I tell myself I’ll change my Christmas tree decor. But the colors still make me so happy and so do my ornaments. I don’t think I can ever change them,” she said.
Her tree ornaments come in shades of white, gold and blue. “Instead of changing, I add to the decor that fits the look of my tree. Like the ceramic cherubs I bought in England in 2019 when we spent Christmas there. The porcelain bell angels, also bought in England in 2016,” she said.
Howe said that prices of decor are half-off if you buy after the holidays. She just stores them until she’s ready to use them.
Howe is proud to have ornaments that are produced locally. She used to frequent bazaars, like the ones held by American Women’s Club, to hunt for ornaments meant for export.
Sometimes she finds joy in quirky and whimsical items, like the polka-dotted balls from Miniso and disco balls found in Divisoria.
The theme of Howe’s tree is carried throughout her gift wrapping. A confessed hoarder of ribbons, Christmas cards and wrappers, she buys them throughout the year. That’s why she never crams when the demand is high.
The way she places her gifts under the tree also removes the need for a collar.
The pandemic has not stopped the Howe family from putting up a tree, even when there is no one else to see them. In fact, she still decorated even as her family plans to go to the United States for Christmas.
“Oh, Christmas is my most favorite time of the year and even if there’s no one else to see my tree but my husband and my son, I still felt the thrill of the season and decorated our whole apartment,” Howe said.
“By God’s grace and God willing, we are spending it with my sister in the US. We’re very blessed that we are able to do so. I look forward to the fresh smell of pine, the winter chill and all the beautiful lights and decorations,” she said. “But most of all, I get to spend it with my sister and her family. She’s my best friend. I’ve missed her and her family so much.”
Since her husband is British, the Howes have also spent Christmas holidays in the United Kingdom. But wherever they are, how they celebrate never changes.
“Christmas Day is always welcomed with a festive brunch! It’s always a mix of Western and Filipino, and made more lively with bottles of bubbly. When we celebrate in England, we always watch a panto, which is so hilarious that we never fail to watch one when we are there for the holidays. This was introduced to us by my late father-in-law,” she said.
Panto is a traditional fairy tale with songs, dances and jokes played out by exaggerated characters. The audience gets to participate in the performances.
Some of the Christmas balls hanging on businesswoman Yrna Centeno’s main tree are over 39 years old, way older than her daughters. They are used on rotation on their 14-foot-tall tree. It is so tall that a ladder is needed to decorate it.
They place it near the sliding French doors that open up to the garden. This is where her husband stands during Christmas parties to call out the names during gift giving.
Centeno sticks to wooden and glass ornaments. She also keeps it in the classic colors of red, white and silver. There’s also a reason she’s been using the same decorations for years.
“Para tipid, I don’t change motifs or colors every year. We are working people and we are not impulsive buyers. My decor reflects our family values. We keep on building on what we got or achieved and treasure the past. We use money wisely,” she said.
She chooses to invest in one-of-a-kind or hard-to-find items rather than follow a trend. She also likes them sparkly. The hunt for them makes for exciting stories.
Like the time she was window shopping in Hong Kong and the store was selling limited-edition balls. She bought what they had. It would’ve been an ordinary purchase had the shopkeeper not wrapped the balls and foliage in several layers of bubble wrap. It was placed in a 5-ft box and Centeno had to carry it back to the hotel on her own.
She also discovered a local family that supplies handcrafted decorations to Neiman Marcus, Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue. She would buy limited-edition items from them directly, but she would request small changes, making hers more unique.
One time, she bought two pairs of 2-ft-tall wooden angels that other titas in the store wanted. She quickly paid for them and asked for a receipt. The moment the “sold” sign was attached on the items, it became the most desirable thing in the store.
Her collection has so many dainty and fragile items. She almost fainted once when she saw a grandson play with a big, heavy Christmas ball as if it were a bowling ball. A piece or two breaks every year, she said.
Centeno cares for her acquisitions lovingly. She hires extra hands in January to clean the items before wrapping them individually in white Japanese paper, and bubble wrapped and labeled before storing in a plastic bin.
But she doesn’t hesitate in giving them away, too. When her daughters moved out, she wrapped the ones they liked and sent it to them. She has also held Get What You Want parties in January for her friends and relatives.
Last year, she said it was too sad to put up a tree. But this year, she took out the tree again.
“When I think about why I invested money and time on my tree, I remember the reason. It was to celebrate that brief break in our busy lives,” Centeno said.
“Now more than ever, we celebrate that our family is intact. God has been good, nobody was financially nor physically set back. We are still able to help our employees. There is much to be joyful for.”