HOMES DECKED OUT FOR CHRISTMAS

Sharing precious memories

Retiree Dorothy Tessensohn at her Jervois Road apartment with her battery- powered dancing and chuckling Santa Claus figurines.
Retiree Dorothy Tessensohn at her Jervois Road apartment with her battery- powered dancing and chuckling Santa Claus figurines.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
The angel from Australia that has wings that flap when it is turned on.
The angel from Australia that has wings that flap when it is turned on.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Among the many Christmas decorations retiree Dorothy Tessensohn has kept for many years, a 1m-tall angel figurine holds special meaning for her.

"I fell in love with her beautiful face," she says.

After her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour 13 years ago, she had seen the angel in a department store in Perth, Australia. It has wings that flap gently when it is turned on.

Madam Tessensohn, who is in her 70s, says: "I had to decide. I couldn't look after him on the flight back and hand-carry it home to Singapore."

The angel was sacrificed, but her ailing husband saw that she liked it so much that he got a friend to buy it and bring it back here at a later date. He died the following year.

She regularly adds new pieces to her collection, mostly items she picks up on her travels to Australia, England and the United States.

The oldest piece in her collection is a 20-year-old nativity scene handmade from clay by a friend, who now has rheumatism and is unable to work with her hands. "She made one statue at a time," Madam Tessensohn recalls.

It is a particularly precious piece as her late husband had bought it for her as a Christmas gift, paying about $600 for the set.

The scene is laid out on a chest of drawers in the corner of her apartment in Jervois Road.

She carefully packs the pieces, like many of her other Christmas trinkets, in cloth instead of paper.

"I'm running out of space in my cupboards because I don't want to throw anything away," she says.

Decorating the home for Christmas and hosting family and friends on Christmas Day is a longstanding tradition, one that her late mother- in-law started and that she continues till this day.

Cooking the Eurasian staple of devil's curry starts two days before the big day, but decorating the home begins in late November .

Madam Tessensohn, who lives with one of her two daughters and a maid, is very particular about where each piece of decor goes.

A former secretary who retired more than 30 years ago, she has kept active at the Eurasian Association organising events for older folk.

She also bakes sugee cakes to sell to friends during the festive period.

Next year, she plans to go to Prague and Budapest, where she hopes to visit the European Christmas markets. She says: "I'll come back with more decorations."

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