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Teresa Hernandez: Christmases Well Spent

Stockbroker Teresa Hernandez is excited for Christmas mainly because of her children.“Of course Christmas is nice and fun, but when you have kids, it’s more festive,” she says. Teresa and her husband enjoy bringing them to hotels to listen to caroling. They go around the villages to look at the lights that adorn most households, and watch the light show in Ayala Triangle Garden almost every year.

It’s a festive time for their family. And indeed, as we do her makeup, photograph her house, and interview her about how she celebrates the season, Hernandez has Christmas music playing in the background. “My husband gets mad at me that sometimes I forget to play Christmas carols. When the kids are home, he wants sound and music. Sometimes I forget. But I think it’s really just the most festive season where as adults you can be silly. You can just enjoy and be a child again.”

Family reunion

Christmas is a little more special for Hernandez because she has four siblings, and she’s the only one who resides in Manila. Every year, more often than not, her brothers and sisters come home to the Philippines to be together. Meanwhile, her husband’s immediate family lives in the States. Thus, they alternate between the two sides, spending one Christmas in Manila and flying out the next year to enjoy a white Christmas with Hernandez’s in-laws.

We asked her if she had a preference between the two locations. “You know, the first time I spent Christmas there was in 2010. I found it so slow. Maybe because I don’t have as many friends there. I didn’t find it as festive.” For Hernandez, there are definitely more Christmas activities in Manila— every night from December 1 to 24, there’s a party. But in the US, quiet celebrations also have their perks. “You’re just relaxing, chilling, and enjoying it with the family. And then we take the kids skiing. And then the next year we do the Filipino rush with all the Christmas parties. It’s a special time of the year for us because we alternate.”

But regardless of where Hernandez and her family spend the holidays, she is always well-prepared for the rush. By July or August, she already knows what gifts to give. By September, everything is ordered. By October, all items are wrapped and tagged. Come the first week of December, all her gifts are out, and all that’s left for her to do is enjoy the season.

Sharing and passing down decor

For decor, being next-door neighbors with her mother has proved to be a huge help. They share and alternate Christmas decorations. Her children gladly help her decorate the tree. “They’re still at that age when everything has to go on. And I’m like, ‘Guys, not everything. Plenty does not mean beautiful,’ ” she laughs.

“You really have to temper the decoration, because if not, I’d have more Christmas balls there,” she says, looking at their tree. “They want the garlands. They want the works, and I’m just like, ‘No, no, no.’ ”Judging from the elegant state of her Christmas tree, she seems to have succeeded at keeping the process under control. The decor itself is composed of objects that have been accumulated over the years—some of them even from the time Hernandez herself was a child. Keeping a color scheme in mind is what helps her sort through the countless ornaments she has and put together something tasteful.

For Hernandez, Christmas is a time to be thankful for everything that you have, whether big or small. It is also a chance to be with family and friends; an opportunity to see loved ones whom you haven’t seen the whole year. “It’s really a time of gathering and enjoying each other’s company. The traffic sort of dampens your mood. You’re like, ‘Oh my God, I have to go to a party tonight and I’m never gonna get there.’ But when you get to the party, the hassle that you went through just disappears. You’re just having fun.”