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'Other places don't have this': Santa Claus of Marsiling returns with bigger, more elaborate display

Fans of Marsiling carpenter Tan Koon Tat's festive displays suggested that he build a house this Christmas - and he obliged, turning a snow-covered log cabin into reality.

'Other places don't have this': Santa Claus of Marsiling returns with bigger, more elaborate display

Mr Tan's Christmas displays have brought festive cheer to the neighbourhood for more than a decade. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: It’s the most wonderful time of the year again - for residents and Christmas-lovers in Marsiling.

Those who live around Woodlands Street 13 are no stranger to the elaborate displays that resident Tan Koon Tat has constructed every festive season for more than ten years, but this year the 58-year-old carpenter has surpassed himself, with a Christmas display spanning not one but two locations.

A life-size Santa Claus and reindeer occupy Mr Tan’s usual display area at the entrance of the car park, but his crowning glory is around the corner, where a huge, snow-covered log cabin sits with Santa’s sleigh parked beside it, the whole thing fenced off by candy canes and tinsel.

This year, Santa also gets a friend, with the addition of a “Santarina” female mannequin dressed up in a Santa costume, standing on the cabin’s porch. She’s not Santa’s wife, says Mr Tan, but rather Santa’s grandchild, as she looks “too young” to be his wife.

A snow machine will also be added over the weekend.

Mr Tan Koon Tat strikes a pose in front of his Christmas decor set-up this year, which comprises a log cabin and giant candy canes. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
A child poses for a photo on Santa's sleigh. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

The whole thing took Mr Tan three weeks to put together, with the help of family, friends and a few workers (though the veteran festive display builder says he could have done it in a week, if it had not been raining).

“My son helped me design (the house),” Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia, adding that one of his daughters helped find materials while another helped decorate and his wife helped with sewing.

The inspiration for Mr Tan's log cabin (left) and the actual structure he built. (Photos: Nicole Chang, Marcus Mark Ramos)

“As for me - me, my workers and my neighbours built this house together,” he said. “Building the house took three people. The decorations, the lights and so on altogether (took) about six or seven people.”


READ: Winter in Woodlands: The man who made it snow in Marsiling



The community is very much at the heart of Mr Tan’s festive projects, and people often ask him what he is going to do for the next year.

“They give a few ideas: ‘Next year why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that?'"

Said the carpenter: “Last year, they suggested: Build a house. The previous year, they said, 'build a sleigh'. So I built a sleigh. Some people say: ‘Hey your reindeer, you should buy bigger ones’. So this year, I have bigger ones.”

These reindeer were bought on Taobao and originally intended for last year’s display; however they did not make it in time for Christmas, so Mr Tan used them in this year’s creation instead.

Reindeer feature in this year's Christmas display, but not as much as in previous years. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)
Children pose for a photo at the log cabin. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

He declined to say how much the entire display or materials cost him, but confirmed that he was self-funded.

When asked whether he had encountered any problems from the authorities about his display, Mr Tan said he had not had any difficulties. In fact, the town council is supplying the electricity for his display this year, he said.

“The town council asked: ‘What do you need?’ I said, I need electricity here. So they said okay, we’ll provide electricity for you.”

A Santarina mannequin stands on the porch of Mr Tan's Christmas cabin. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

The carpenter, who has his own business, has been putting up the festive displays for more than ten years - “done it until I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve done it already”. The decorations go up not just for Christmas, but for other occasions including Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya.

However, when asked if he had any particular favourites, Mr Tan said that his favourite part was to see everyone happy.

“Looking at everyone’s smiles, that’s my favourite part. It’s not that I like my design … I like that everyone is happy,” he said. “If people were to say: 'Hey, uncle it doesn’t look good', then it’s no use. It’s when people like it, that I’m happy.”

To that end, he has also bought presents - 120 sets of festive headbands - to distribute to children when it gets closer to Christmas, on a "first come, first served" basis.

02:42 Min
Residents of Woodlands Street 13 were treated to a Winter Wonderland this year, thanks to one self-funded carpenter and his family. Tan Si Hui found out more about Mr Tan Koon Tat's installation.
Marsiling residents posing with Mr Tan's Christmas cabin. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)


Residents who walked by to admire and take selfies with Mr Tan’s creation were overwhelmingly positive about his decorations.

“(It’s) very good. Other places don’t have this,” said Ms Chen Jin, a teacher who just moved into the opposite block.

“I just moved in opposite, so it’s my first Christmas decorations,” she said. “My old block didn’t have this.”

Family photo? Mr Tan with one of his reindeer and of course, "Santa". (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

Buyer Esther Lim said she used to live nearby but has since moved. She and her husband came back to look at Mr Tan’s decorations.

“It really adds to the spirit of Christmas,” she said. “We used to live nearby, (so) we know this neighbour (Mr Tan) does it.”

Those who live around Woodlands Street 13 are no stranger to Mr Tan's elaborate displays. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

Another resident, who gave his name as Gabriel, said he had been living in the area for five years, but that this year’s display was “the best”.

“Very nice. We purposely walked past here to look,” he said. “This is the most elaborate of all the years.”

READ: Meet the Santa Claus of Marsiling - who has something extra for the kids 

Source: CNA/nc(dt)


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