Where Christmas Lasts All Year: Renna Angeles
If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting the residence of Renna Hechanova-Angeles, you’ll know that Christmas is not just for December. Her decorations are there year-round. The tree is lit up and Santa Claus figures fill various corners—there is an amusing saxophone-playing Santa, a reflective bearded figurine of Saint Nicholas on a table in the living room. Angeles has been using the same tall and lovely Christmas tree, which is refreshed or spruced up every now and then. It’s a year-long reminder of our most anticipated holiday, and brightly greets every guest who enters her home. “Sometimes we have group pictures (with friends) and they want it beside the Christmas tree.” It’s obvious that Christmas brings this busy lady—the vice chairman of Concepcion Durables, Inc.—much happiness. “I like a happy house,” she shares, “I like masaya!”
“My most unforgettable Christmases were when my grandparents were still alive. They passed away in 1977, but every year, the whole clan still gets together during Christmas.” She’s been organizing these Christmas reunions for more than 30 years, and also has various small gatherings on the eve and the day of Christmas. Angeles prefers to have small gatherings at home with selected friends, and only one major family gathering for the holidays. “There’s not a huge party, except for when the Concepcion clan is there. Usually I just have 10 people and we’re happy.” Angeles is a Concepcion on her mother’s side, and keeps close ties with the rest of the clan, most of whom are busy entrepreneurs and business people themselves.
On Christmas Eve, she attends the 10 o’ clock mass at Santuario de San Antonio. Afterwards, the parents and siblings start arriving, and stay until media noche. A few friends are invited for an intimate noche buena later on. There are around eight to 10 people, with Raul Manzano, Metro Society’s editor-in-chief, as one of her guests. “There’s usually turkey and fabada (both prepared by Raul). We also have ham, lechon, chorizo—things like that.” Sometimes, they have callos, paella, or just plain tapa and eggs. “Around midnight that’s what I have cooked; parang breakfast na.” She reveals that she’s not really fond of big parties anymore, preferring the company of, at most, 20 close friends so that there’s time to relax and chat with each person. “There was a time 20 or 30 years ago, when I’d be out every day. I’m older now, so when it comes to socials during Christmas, you choose where you go. You don’t accept all the invites. You just chose to get together with old friends.”
The next day, Christmas Day, is when her in-laws visit. They leave after lunch, and the cousins and Concepcion side of her family get together on the 25th for dinner. There are over a hundred members of the clan, which makes for a very festive and lively reunion. “When we were younger, we used to have programs. For the past three years though, we’ve been having games instead—for all ages! We have small prizes and a spa party—things like that.” The games are organized by some cousins, while Angeles specialty is food and beverage.
The food is usually from Via Mare or La Tasca. While the menu varies, there’s always some form of pasta for the children, as well as the staples: lechon and roast beef. “We love to eat, so anything I’ve chosen for the menu goes fast!” Angeles is a celebrated foodie among her friends, and her gatherings are known to have a lot of desserts; in fact, her family is famous for it. “It’s not a Hechanova party without at least 10 desserts!” Raul Manzano jokes. Angeles celebrated her birthday with some friends in November and for a group of 16, there were six desserts. “Normally, say my parents’ birthdays or wedding anniversary, there are no less than 15 desserts. When there are more people, say a hundred or something, there’s about 30. We like desserts.”
“During Christmas dinner, the strawberry shortcake and coffee crunch go pretty fast. There are also lemon squares, fruitcake, butter cake with white icing or jello. Of course, we also have fruits.” On occasion, there’s also the traditional puto bumbong and bibingka.
In the midst of the feasting, they make sure to take the time to pray the rosary at around 10 p.m., a tradition started years ago. At midnight they bring out a cake, as it is the birthday of her mother and a cousin on the 26th. They blow out the candles on the cake together and at around one to two a.m., people start going home. “Simple lang. Just dinner, kwento, kwento, the rosary, the cake and just more chatting.”
Angeles’ family do not observe a lot of Christmas traditions or superstitions, but there’s one thing they observe religiously: coming together during the holiday season. “We need to get together on the 25th. We all have to be together. There was a year when one side of the family was going to the US, so we said no, we can’t not have a get together. So we made it two weeks before they left. Kunyari it was Christmas day, but it was only December 10 or something! But still, we were together.”