Making Memories
Five personalities in different fields share with JAIME EE the best of Christmas past and future plans

Ethan Koh

Founder and creator of Eathan K bags

“My best Christmas memory was in Florida in 2013 when I had the pleasure of visiting Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West. I had just finished university and designed my first bag. I was really excited, I took my sketchbook and was so inspired by the place. I was travelling with my schoolmate Elisaveta from the London College of Fashion, who now lives in Moscow and is one of my biggest fans.

Another favourite memory was in Singapore. I was crazy about log-cake design, so I took classes with my mother. I made the perfect log cake after a few failed attempts. How funny! I love spending time with my mother and we don’t do it often enough.

Christmas for me is a time of reflection and celebration. When I was growing up, I spent it with family and childhood friends. This has changed over time and in recent years I’ve been invited to my friends’ family estates in the English countryside for Christmas roasts and mulled wine. It’s an excellent opportunity to explore new landscapes. This year, I’ll be in London with my close friends. There’s been so much travel over the years, it’s nice to just gather and enjoy each other’s company.

I’m really excited about our first flagship store in South-east Asia which is opening before March 2018. It’s a pivotal year for us as we explore new markets and share our unique philosophy.

This year, for my Christmas list, we have some really unique Ethan K evil-eye brooches which I designed and crafted, and I will definitely be sharing them with some of my special collectors and friends. But the best gifts for me are the camaraderie, friendships and relationships I have cultivated over the years, which outdo any material gifts I have.”

Jaelle Ang

CEO of The Great Room

“Our holiday tradition used to be about London, where a warm fireplace and family sitting around for Christmas was the most comforting luxury. We have a very traditional Christmas meal except that we replace the turkey with the famed Four Seasons’s duck! But as my young family expands, we tend to stay closer to home and make new traditions.

Beyond the bubbly and celebration, Christmas is a time of giving and teaching my children to think beyond themselves. This year, we are planning to take a group of children from a home on a HiPPO bus to see the Christmas lights and have a party on board.

I spent a memorable Christmas in Lalibela, Ethiopia a few years ago when my husband and I set up a ‘breakfast programme’ at an orphanage with the gift of a hen pen and a few goats. Knowing that all 40 children could have a glass of milk and an egg before school made us happier than any gift we could have received.

It’s been an intense year with my new venture, The Great Room, and our newborn twin boys. The holiday season is packed with parties and family gatherings. I’m looking forward to a big rockstar- themed office party I’m hosting at The Great Room.

More recently, I am into gifting experiences rather than material gifts – be it a hotel stay or spa experience. My husband is the perfect gifter. When he found out my secret ambition was to own a car park, he gave me shares in the only Reit that had a car park in its portfolio!”

Aisha Ashraf

Founder of interior design firm and bespoke furniture brand Accentuate Home

“Born and raised in Pakistan, we never really celebrated Christmas in the traditional sense. But it was always a special time where family and friends living around the world would meet up for the holidays.

Over the years, living in different parts of the world, we’ve incorporated festive aspects of different cultures into our celebrations. It changes each year, whether it is a family trip to Northern Pakistan, a girls’ trip to New York City or quality time with family and friends in Singapore. But they all incorporate the true spirit of Christmas – family, friendship, love and compassion.

This year, I’m planning a different sort of Christmas. I’ll be hosting a reunion dinner with family and friends in Pakistan.

Christmas is definitely a time for reflection. With so much uncertainty, it’s really important to understand the transience of life. In fact, one of my best Christmas memories is just making a snowman with my kids in Northern Pakistan – it was the first time in their lives seeing snow.

As for Christmas gifts, my friends alway complain they have no time or headspace to reconfigure their home space for the season. This year, I decided to ‘gift’ five of my friends a quick home-styling makeover. I figured it would be better appreciated than a coffee table book sitting on an ill-arranged table.

One of my best gifts was a cheesecake sent in the mail (from my favorite US bakery) from my brother years ago. My key strategy is never to give anyone anything that I wouldn’t like for myself – so no recycling of gifts please.”

Chris Chong

CEO of Orchard Turn Developments

“One of my favourite memories was of Harriniva, Finland, where we had a white Christmas! Harriniva is situated above the Arctic Circle, hence over the Christmas season, daylight is short and temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius are a daily affair. On Christmas Eve, we took the children on a snowmobile ride out into the forest, chose a good-sized spruce tree to cut down and lug it back to our cabin.

The children helped by adding decorations to the tree and placing their gift boxes underneath it. It was as close an authentic Lapland Yuletide experience as you can get!

The best gift I’ve received is one where I treated myself on a family holiday in Hokkaido. We had fun riding the toboggan, snow-trekking and enjoyed the beautiful outdoor hot springs – not to mention delicious cuisines. That year, I did my shopping at the Musical Box Museum in Otaru, where I found musical boxes in all types and sizes to suit the different people on my gift list.

I like to plan ahead for Christmas, which includes buying gifts early, so I can put some thought into personalising a gift that suits the recipient, rather than buying something for the sake of gifting. This year, as with every year, I will be spending a lot of time at ION Orchard as the mall’s calendar is packed with thematic events such as carolling, photo opportunities with Santa and more. I like to observe the reactions of our shoppers and it is the most rewarding when I see happy faces all around the mall.”

Wendy Long

Private equities investor

“For over a decade, we’ve spent Christmas Eve at a very dear friend’s place. Most of my friends are excellent cooks so each prepares a dish. I’m in charge of the roast turkey and log cake – without fail, I get them from Mezza9 at Grand Hyatt. It doesn’t feel right without it, or my friend’s Chinese pasta salad. We even use the same plates ever since the hostess bought a set of Christmas- themed plates for our very first party. Mine has sheep on it, the others Santa Claus and so on. Every year, we use our designated plates.

I like to celebrate Christmas with traditions. It marks the time and gives a sense of consistency, which is really important in our fast-moving world. I look forward to a new year of exploring new destinations and business opportunities and parties! But more importantly, as a Christian, I’d like to strengthen my walk with God and spend more time on understanding my religion.

One precious memory was also a bittersweet one. A few years ago, I was wrapping presents all night, and singing along terribly to CeeLo Green’s This Christmas with my beloved dog Jackie beside me. I was just feeling the warmth of the Christmas spirit and imagining he could understand it was the happiest time of the year. It was a very sweet moment, just enjoying each other’s company. Unfortunately, that was his last Christmas.

Gifts? That’s a secret! Nobody can know what they’re getting! Besides friends and loved ones, I also like getting gifts for people in my daily life – hairstylists, personal trainer, for example. The art of giving is sincerity. When you make time and effort, the recipient appreciates it even if the gift’s not to their taste. I love monogrammed gifts because it makes recipients feel special as it’s clearly not a regift or afterthought. And don’t forget your ribbons and boxes – regardless of the price, everything looks nicer when it’s beautifully wrapped up!”



Wong Wei Kong
Jaime Ee
Kelvin Chng
Mark Cheong
Yen Ming Jiin
Lee Kim Siang
Charmaine Martin