To cheer themselves up despite the uncertainties posed by the pandemic, many families are putting up their Christmas trees early as symbols of hope and as a precursor to the light they hope to see at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
Event stylist Dave Sandoval also says that most of those who ask him to put up their trees have one overarching request: Make my tree happy.
“They want their trees to give very happy vibes,” Dave tells me.
And happy vibes come in “something old, something borrowed, something blue” (to borrow a line usually reserved for brides) and, in Dave’s own case, “something black and white.”
Dave points out a lot of his clients are recycling décor this year.
“Recycle, then just add a few new, striking touches,” says Dave, probably because some people are more conscious about the environment, or the need to not spend for some things they already have.
Something borrowed? Dave says that to save on storage, clients who like new themes each year simply ask him to set up their trees every year. After the holidays, the décor goes back to Dave.
And yes, people still ask for the blue theme even for a jubilant Christmas.
“Based on my experience, clients choose a blue theme if that is their company color, like a famous hotel chain. A newlywed couple once asked me for a blue-themed tree because both of them graduated from the Ateneo. So, one’s personal preferences really come into play for the choice of colors for the tree,” says Dave, who also does tablescapes for weddings and intimate dinners.
But have you ever seen a black-and-white Christmas tree?
Well, Dave says they exist, and that’s written down in black and white.
Revealing the child in him, Dave said that his personal Christmas tree is black and trimmed with 100 stuffed toy pandas. Yes, black and white pandas. To provide a striking contrast to the black tree, Dave used white matte Christmas balls in three different sizes.
“I wanted to achieve something quirky, classy and playful,” says Dave, who adds that his friends liken him to a panda because he’s “huggable like a panda bear.”
“The tree is very me because I like black and white. My friends say I’m fun to be with and that, like the panda, I hardly sleep.” In the wild, pandas sleep for only two to four hours a night. Dave himself sleeps at 4 a.m. because he makes sure he is in the Dangwa flower market at midnight to personally choose the flowers for his arrangements. He doesn’t delegate that particular task.
“Inaabangan ko talaga siya. I am very particular about the varieties. I want to see them beforehand, because I don’t want the flowers to arrive at my doorstep without my having a hand in choosing them,” says the meticulous Dave.
But aside from the old, the new, the borrowed and the blue, classic Christmas trees are also in vogue. Always.
“My clients usually stick to the classic. If you’re the type of client who prefers classic elegance, tradition and timelessness, you would opt for a classic theme,” says Dave. One of the classic trees he set up for the season sparkled with décor that was “mostly white, with hints of matte champagne.”
“So if you look at it from one side, it will look white-white, but if you look closely, there are hints of gold. Some want it all-white every year, but they want to tweak the décor. So, for that particular tree, there were Filipiniana elements, like stars made from capiz shells and angels because I do campaign to support local.”
And since Christmas, they say, is mostly for children, Dave gets a lot of requests for red and white trees as well. “They want elements from The Nutcracker Suite, candies, candy canes. I also have trees with dessert themes. I even have trees inspired by Blackpink’s Ice Cream. I also have trees with cupcakes. Not edible, of course.”
There are also clients who want their family members’ names on the décor. “They want something personalized talaga. The focus of Christmas this season is really family.”
What was the most outlandish of all the trees he set up?
“The one with a Lady Gaga theme requested by a designer,” Dave replies without batting an eyelash.
“The Christmas tree itself was black. The elements were silver. So, we put a lot of disco balls, sparkling balls.”
According to history.com, “Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it, in the 16th century, when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.”
Christianity brought more significance to the tree, especially for those who would include the Nativity Scene around the base of the tree. It became both a spiritual and socio-cultural symbol.
Then and now, through centuries of plagues, wars, prosperity and pandemics, the Christmas tree has endured. Because it gifts people — child or not, Christian or not — with a glow to rival the disco ball’s.