HOMES DECKED OUT FOR CHRISTMAS

Bringing the family together

Mr Philip Seah and his wife Christine Chan in the living room of their two-storey, semi-detached house in Telok Kurau.
Mr Philip Seah and his wife Christine Chan in the living room of their two-storey, semi-detached house in Telok Kurau.ST PHOTO: TK RAJU
The "Christmas tree" assembled from branches and twigs picked off the road.
The "Christmas tree" assembled from branches and twigs picked off the road.ST PHOTO: TK RAJU

Many years ago, Mr Philip Seah and his eldest child, then a toddler, set up the Christmas tree one night while his wife was out. It was a sweet gesture meant to surprise her.

When Ms Christine Chan returned home, she gave him a "big scolding" and he had to take down the tree and ornaments and put them back in the box so that they could set it up together as a family the following weekend - a tradition she values dearly.

Indeed Mr Seah, 60, says: "Decorating the house has been instrumental in bringing the family together."

Every year, the couple, who have four adult children and a granddaughter, gather their extended family of nine for Christmas Tree Night a month before Christmas - a tradition they have carried out since the couple married 33 years ago. The family will dress up the house while Christmas carols play in the background.

The charm of the Christmas decorations at their home is in the details. Everywhere you look, there is a Christmas ornament with a story.

Mr Seah, chief executive officer of Prudential, points to a few painted Santa Claus and nutcracker glass baubles hanging on the Christmas tree that stands at the front of his two-storey semi-detached house in Telok Kurau, saying that they were bought off the Christmas tree at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong a few years ago.

"I asked the concierge where they got the baubles from and if I could buy them," he says. The concierge promptly packed "about 12 to 18 pieces" and sold them to Mr Seah. He did not want to say how much he paid, but said he was willing to pay the price as they were different from typical baubles.

His house is decorated with nativity scenes, Christmas tree cones and six wooden nutcrackers.

Ms Chan, 56, who is a housewife, says: "We've had the ornaments for a long time and added new ones only recently, including the Swarovski crystal snowflakes we started collecting about six years ago."

Mr Seah's favourite items are the three Santa Claus figures perched on the ledge of the mezzanine level because they "look so benign and cheery", while Ms Chan likes a small glass tree they bought from Robinsons about 28 years ago.

He puts the starburst topper on the Christmas tree every year. They have had their 2m-tall tree for about two years.

They have another tree in their second living hall, which they put together with branches and twigs they picked off the streets.

The Seahs host a dinner for about 60 people every Christmas Eve in their 8,600 sq ft home.

Christmas Eve also holds special meaning for the couple - they were baptised on that day in 1984 with Charmaine, who was one then (she is now 32 and married with a 13-month-old daughter). Their sons Russell, 28, Brandon, 27, and Darryl, 21, were baptised at birth.

The family also put together hampers for the underprivileged every year. Says Mr Seah: "It is all about family, love and sharing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'Bringing the family together'. Print Edition | Subscribe