Christmas wonderland: Inside the Ruedas' festive universe

Christmas wonderland: Inside the Ruedas' festive universe

In the heart of Talisay City lies a residence that transforms into nothing short of a Christmas wonderland every December. The home of Dr. Burt and Stephanie Bacalan Ruedas, renowned for its spectacular display of over 300 Santa Clauses, is a testament to the magic and splendor of the holiday season.

Legacy of festivity

The story of the Ruedas’ holiday enthusiasm is deeply rooted in family tradition. Stephanie’s passion for festive decor harks back to her childhood, inspired by her mother’s insistence on a beautifully adorned Christmas tree each year. This family legacy has blossomed into an annual spectacle that captivates the entire community.

“My mother loved to put a Christmas tree every Christmas. She made sure we had one every year. So growing up, I made sure that my family will always be able to celebrate Christmas vividly like we did,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie revealed the collaborative effort behind the scenes. “It’s a duo effort,” she said, smiling fondly at her sister Diane Contrastano, the financial benefactor behind the elaborate decorations. “Diane sponsors, and I bring our vision to life.”

Last year, their theme of pastels showcased a house bedecked in Christmas balls and flowers. However, this year holds a special place in Stephanie’s heart.

“Our full Santa Claus theme, predominantly in red, honors our 90-year-old mother,” she shared, eyes twinkling with emotion. These aren’t just any Santa figurines, they range from life-sized to uniquely Filipino-themed Santas, complete with their own “lechon” (roast pig).

Festive transformation

The preparation for this festive transformation begins as early as September, with adjustments continuing until December.

“Every day, I find myself wondering what new piece I could display on this particular wall. Then, the next day, I’m considering what I can add to the table. It’s a constantly evolving process, with changes happening every day,” Stephanie shared.

Post-holiday, the meticulous process of storing these decorations takes about three to five days.

“Each piece is carefully labeled and preserved for next year,” Ruedas explained, emphasizing the importance of maintaining their pristine condition. “We always make sure that the decorations are kept and organized properly, just like how my mom used to organize hers. She was incredibly meticulous, and I learned that attention to detail from her.”

Beyond decorations

Stephanie’s penchant for collecting extends beyond holiday decorations. Her impressive assemblage of decorative plates, featuring esteemed brands like Tiffany & Co., Noritake, Royal Albert and rare holiday-themed plates from Hermès, is a sight to behold. This collection, nurtured over 13 years, is a vivid reflection of her exquisite taste and love for the finer things in life.

“Growing up, I’ve always had this fascination with plates. I’m not quite sure where it all started. It was one of those things where I just felt drawn to collect them. I started small at first, with simple China plates and the like. And now, here I am, surrounded by all these incredible pieces.”

Next year promises to be even more ambitious, with Stephanie planning an “around-the-world” holiday theme, showcasing Santa Clauses from various cultures. This upcoming display is eagerly anticipated by the community.

Season of giving

But the spirit of Christmas in the Ruedas household isn’t just about decorations. Their commitment to charity is equally heartwarming. Each year, the family gives away “tickets of joy” to 300 families, redeemable for festive bundles on Dec. 24. This act of kindness embodies the true essence of the holiday spirit — giving and sharing.

As Stephanie prepares to celebrate this Christmas with her sister Diane, who is spending her first Christmas in the Philippines, one can’t help but feel the infectious spirit of love, joy and togetherness that pervades their home. In the Ruedas residence, every ornament, every light, and every Santa Claus tells a story — a story of family, tradition, and the unwavering spirit of Christmas.

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