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

channelnewsasia.com

It’s looking a lot like Christmas in Marsiling, through the efforts of a Woodlands Street 13 resident who decked a corner of the car park near Block 179 with a homemade snowman and snow machine.

The decorations are the brainchild of 56-year-old Tan Koon Tat. A carpenter by trade, Mr Tan made the 2.2-metre-tall snowman himself, using thick metal rods to build the frame of the snowman before fitting it with light bulbs and wrapping it in white felt. The snowman took about a week to complete, he told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday night (Dec 22).

“When I see the gleeful faces of fellow residents or passers-by, I’m elated as well. It gives me a sense of satisfaction,” Mr Tan said in Mandarin. “I hope more Singaporeans will stay in Singapore to soak up the festivities and not travel overseas – that’s my wish.”

“Instead of spending money alone travelling, I might as well spend it on the decorations and let fellow residents be happy,” Mr Tan said, adding that he believes it is better to share the joy than keep it for oneself.

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

It started one Chinese New Year about 10 years ago, when Mr Tan decorated the area with simple ornaments like ribbons and lanterns. Since then, he has added other festivals to his repertoire.

He now decorates the corner every Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Christmas and National Day.

The area’s MP, Halimah Yacob, told Channel NewsAsia that she is grateful to residents like Mr Tan who “take time to make the place better for everyone”.

“As the MP for that area, I visit that area very frequently and have seen all Mr Tan’s decorations for the different festivities. I am always very impressed by them,” said the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Member of Parliament.

“Last October, he decorated the place for our Hindu residents and we had a lovely elephant figure which all the residents liked. He would also decorate that corner for Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Puasa.

“The decorations are done tastefully and is a source of pride for residents living there,” said Mdm Halimah, who is also Speaker of Parliament. “It encourages residents to cross cultural barriers, embrace diversity and forge stronger community bonds.”

Mr Tan said he merely hopes to contribute back to society. “As Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-cultural country, I try to understand the beliefs and traditions of other races and religions and add these elements to my decorations,” he said.

“IT’S OK IF YOU RUIN IT – I WILL JUST PUT UP THE DECORATIONS AGAIN”

The Christmas decorations cost about S$2,000, said Mr Tan, adding that his decorations for other festivals like Chinese New Year can cost as much as S$5,000.

And that excludes electricity bills, which Mr Tan pays for as well: The cables that light up the snowman and power the snow machine run back to his flat.

He added that the electricity bill for each festival runs to about S$100.

“Some residents have suggested that I ask the authorities if I can use electricity from a public socket, or if they could chip in for the expenses. But I would decline, as I only want to do whatever I can within my own means,” said Mr Tan.

The decorations have been vandalised on several occasions, he said, but it has not deterred him from putting up more decorations.

“I expect vandals to turn up so I buy spare decorations,” he said. “It’s OK if you ruin it – I will just put up the decorations again the next day. And I will continue doing so until they stop. For example, the presents underneath the Christmas tree get stolen even though they are just empty boxes.”

One Hari Raya Puasa, he personally witnessed a passer-by taking the flowers that he used to decorate the area. “But I didn’t want to ruin the moment,” he said.

“The purpose of putting up these decorations is to bring a smile to their faces. If I raise my voice at them, it is meaningless. I just want them to be happy.”

The Christmas decorations will be at the car park of Blk 179 Woodlands St 13 until early January. Mr Tan revealed that the upcoming Chinese New Year decorations will feature three 1.3m-tall roosters.

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