EXCLUSIVE: The Best Christmas Home Tours—Christian Mark Jacobs Combines Christmas Cultures
The home that Jacobs shares with his husband, fashion designer Francis Libiran, is a four-story townhouse found in the heart of Makati. One can see their Christmas tree—their “fun” tree, as they call it—from the outside. Even if it was the day after Thanksgiving, Jacobs has gotten into the Filipino tradition of putting up the Christmas de´cor as early as possible. “It was an adjustment for me to put it up that early,” Jacobs said, laughing, “Because the tradition in America is the night after Thanksgiving, you put up the tree, or a week after. It’s never before Thanksgiving. Like last year, I got all this fall foliage, scarecrows, and pumpkins, and Francis came home and saw it all and said, ‘What is this?’ because he’s never celebrated it before! So since Thanksgiving is as big for me as Christmas, I now start celebrating Thanksgiving early, like around August, then we switch it out by the end of September."
The home was indeed bedecked with ornaments and a fully trimmed tree, but what really catches one’s attention is what Jacobs whipped up in the kitchen. He is, after all, the owner and head chef of the Naked Patisserie, an establishment that creates gorgeous cakes, pastries, chocolates, and other baked delights, and launching his own line of wines for the holiday season. They were in the middle of cooking up a storm too. Jacobs laughed and said, “Ideally, I would have wanted you to smell cinnamon or something when you walk into the door, but it was food!”
Jacobs’ “fun tree” showcases a collection of old and new ornaments, some are heirlooms from Libiran’s grandmother, some hold a photo of Jacobs when he was younger, and some are just fun, like an ornament shaped into a wine glass.
For Jacobs, entertaining is an entire sensory experience, and if you think about it, is easily to replicate in any home. “I always tell people that when you entertain or when you do some kind of event, you have to think of all the five senses,” he advises. “Hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and seeing—create a sensational experience. Like scent of cinnamon, you have Christmas music on, nice de´cor, something for people to taste and drink. It all adds to the experience. I want everybody to feel comfortable—like there’s a blanket there on the sofa if you feel cold.” Jacobs loves bringing people together during the holidays, having around seven different get-togethers with several sets of friends. “We sometimes do board games—I stack a few on the floor and just play after dinner. I think entertaining is through those details and through the different elements. It’s a lot of fun for me. I love obsessing over this kind of stuff—I’m crazy like my mother in that aspect!”
Being in the wedding industry, Christian Mark Jacobs and his husband, fashion designer Francis Libiran, are at their busiest during the holidays. But come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they manage to be together and celebrate with a small group of friends.
He recalled how growing up, he would make Christmas cookies with his family, have ham and turkey for Christmas dinner, and decide who cooks what. “Cooking for Christmas is just typical for our family. It’s just not functional for us. Sure, it takes a lot of planning, but it’s a way that the family comes together and bonds. Some of my fondest memories are with my grandma baking cookies shaped into Christmas trees, Santa, or reindeers, and doing different flavors like oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip, or basting the turkey with my mom.”
Nowadays, the Christmas spread is usually a combination of his cooking and ordering out, especially with December being such a busy time for the couple, who both work in the wedding industry. “I think my first Christmas here was the most impactful. We had a big miscommunication because I assumed that Christmas dinner was already noche buena. So after mass on the 24th, Francis goes: Okay now we’re going to have our Christmas dinner, and I was like, ‘Christmas is tomorrow, what do you mean?’, because that was something completely new to me too, because growing up there was Christmas Eve dinner, then Christmas dinner on the 25th. So now we do just one, then we just eat the noche buena leftovers on Christmas Day. When I looked at the Christmas spread, it looked very different from what we had back in the States. There was lechon on the table, sweet spaghetti, siomai. I love the food, but it was really different from what I was used to. So now we’ve kind of adapted to blend together our two cultures, like we have that stuff, and then we have a turkey or ham, baked macaroni and cheese—mixture of ordering or getting it catered, or me cooking as well. I would typically make ham or turkey—last year they gave me full reign and made it an all-American spread. It was intense—I started making it three days early!”
Putting the two cultures together was something that Jacobs needed to get used to: what to serve during holiday parties and Christmas dinner, when to put the de´cor. Jacobs moved to the Philippines for good when he and Libiran got married, but he brought with him a lot of mementos of his family back in the States. The tree they currently have up is an antithesis of the tree he had growing up. “My mom always did a very traditional tree, always white lights, very burgundy and gold with angels—it was more of an adult tree. So now we’re doing a fun tree—we have ornaments like flamingos, a reindeer antler, champagne bottles, a rose bottle, the Eiffel tower, a little sweater—is it’s just fun and a conversation piece. Some of them belonged to Francis’ great-grandmother which she passed down as a family heirloom. All of them have different meanings.” Jacobs pointed out two pieces that were hung on the tree—one that was made with a picture of him when he was younger, and one made of recycled materials that stood out from the rest of the sparkly, quirky ornaments. “That one, my grandmother made,” Jacobs said proudly, “She makes ornaments for Christmas, recycling Christmas cards instead of throwing it away, and she sells them in Christmas expos.”
Jacobs jokes that growing up, cooking for the holidays in their family is not for the faint of heart. Jacobs’ love for cooking, planning dinners, and hosting parties is something he seemingly inherited from his mother, and upon calling the Philippines his home for good, he has been able to marry the two cultures—not to mention the two very different culinary palettes—together for a different, yet unforgettable Noche Buena and Christmas dinner every year.
Christmas season for 2018 is busier than ever for both Jacobs and Libiran, which was another reason why they put up the decorations as early as possible, or else they won’t have the time to do so anymore. “We plan to celebrate noche buena like we always do, maybe have some family and friends over, but maybe more catering than we usually do for the food, because we have so many weddings to work on. After that we’re going to San Francisco to see Francis’ family for New Year’s, then we go down to LA for my family.” Sounds like a great way to cap off the year that was, and to start a new year, filled with new possibilities and spending time with the ones you love.
Photography by JC Inocian for Metro Society
Grooming by Cats Del Rosario