Celebrating a nation’s birthday – on repeat every year

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Happy 56th Birthday Singapore – does this statement sound weird to you (assuming you’re from a different country)?

Some of my foreign friends can’t seem to understand the obsession we (Singaporeans) have with our nation’s birthday and most of them refer to it as ‘independence day’ rather than a ‘birthday’. To be honest, I can’t exactly recall how the lines got blurred as the years went by but we commonly call it our nation’s birthday as long as I could remember and.. it is pretty much a one to two months celebration every year.

Anyway, for my non-singaporean readers who may be reading, Singapore is a relatively small island/country located in Southeast Asia (nope, we are not in China – I get this question a couple of times when I travel) and the nearest countries around us is Malaysia and Indonesia. We are literally a bridge away from Malaysia and a boat ride from Indonesia (Batam). We are a relatively young nation (in comparison to many countries), only achieving independence back in 1965. Shall not go into history lesson for everyone but we have progressed significantly from the colonial era and achieved a couple of world-class recognition in several aspects – we have the tallest swimming pool in the world (at Marina Bay Sands).

I don’t know why but I do feel the ‘national day vibes’ more this year. Perhaps it was because of the addictive theme song ‘The Road Ahead’ (with that semi-viral dance which my niece didn’t mind dancing multiple times for) or maybe we barely had any celebrations in 2020 due to covid PLUS I was away in New Zealand back in 2019 and absence only makes the heart fonder. I do feel an extra sense of pride this year, especially so in this celebratory month. The last time I felt the nostalgia – it was during SG50 year in 2015 where we were even gifted with an extra public holiday to soak in the celebrations. Looking back, it does sound really cheesy and oh wells, it kind of worked and I remember spending those 4-days with many groups of friends which mattered in my life. When you’re given too much of a long break, you will tend to find things to do, people to meet and I guess that’s what ‘home’ is about – familiarity and comfort.

When I was living abroad for 9 months, I realised one very important thing that I was pampered with since the moment I was born – and that was the joy of living in a very small country. This means that my friends are always a short drive away. I have friends who stay in houses where I can walk to (~20 mins) and the furthest I have to travel to meet anyone would just be a 40 mins car ride. Everything is just so within ‘reach’ and I can just have impromptu meet-ups and gatherings in a spur of a moment. Everything is just too convenient. If I lived in a bigger country, the chances of having my friends (my comfort zone) being spread out all over the country would be higher. On a side note, it doesn’t always mean you’re close to everyone. Sometimes, the closer in proximity, the further the connection (if you get what I mean).

Alright sorry for the mega digression. Anyway, Singapore’s national day had been the same for every single year except for last year – where there outdoor performances were canceled due to covid-19. There was a low-scale performance (without an audience) in an indoor theatre and no one really spoke much of it (except that it was the first time it had been downsized so significantly). This year, things were looking kind of great when we see the daily cases going down in the months leading up to August but sometime in the third week of July, the cases exploded up (’00s) and there was a two or was it three weeks ‘Phase 2 Heightened Alert’ where dining was not allowed again. The whole covid rules/measures are messing up my brain cells somehow but basically, we’re living in an era where change is, the constant. It’s really a tough job to maintain the balance of the health of your people vs the survivability of businesses. As of today, the rules are that you have to be vaccinated in order to dine at restaurants/food outlets; in a maximum group of 5. If unvaccinated, you can opt for a test (which lasts 24 hours) or choose to take away your food, or dine at ‘open-air/ventilated hawker centres or coffee shops’ (FYI: Coffee shops are not cafes. It is kind of like a heartland dining area where several ‘stalls’ share a free-seating area.) The magic number is 5 – you can hang out in groups of 5, each household accepting up to 5 visitors per day and exercise classes are also capped at 5 (in an indoor/confined space).

Anyway, so how special is 2021’s version of national day? Well, the celebrations were split up into 2 dates. On the actual day (9th Aug), the country was still in the Phase 2 heightened alert where it is highly discouraged to hang out. As a result, they only had a ceremonial parade (with all the uniform soldiers marching past with masks on [despite the hot and humid weather]). Only a handful of important people were invited to grace the event. There were no fancy performances at all.  The measures were ‘relaxed’ 10 days later and they made plans for the night performance (with fireworks) to be held on a Saturday, 21 Aug. Unlike previous years where tickets were balloted, they had a scaled-down audience (27k to less than 1k) but the show was rather spectacular with great directorship. There was a great ‘theme song’ (FYI – we have a national day theme song almost every year for the past twenty tears), there was a viral tiktok dance for the song and everyone was pretty much at ‘home’ to feel the ‘spirit’. It may be a yearly affair of nationalistic project but there’s something about this year which makes it heartwarming.

Theme Song – ‘The Road Ahead’

The actual night parade

Sharing the links so I can reflect upon these celebrations sometime down the road. The song is really addictive. There are mornings I wake up with the song ringing in my head.. Haha.

August is coming to an end and.. soon it will mark my one year anniversary of returning back to the workforce. I do miss my freedom and liberation from a year ago but working full-time is definitely a quicker way to ‘past time’. I have this awkward bad habit of not being able to do ‘nothing’. All the time, I always feel like I have to make my time worthwhile, and that it has to be something that counts. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that I have to be doing productive/meaningful things all the time. Even spending 6-12 hours on dramas/YouTube is considered ‘doing something’. I just need something to remember my days – maybe that’s why I IG Story so much. It is some sort of an ‘evidence’ to myself that I did something today. On the days where I am not working (aka the weekends), I tend to bake/cook on impulse, if I do not have plans to head outside. Sometimes I ask myself why do I bother tiring myself over the weekends.. why couldn’t I just stone and do nothing at all. That hardly ever happens. Even when I’m lying in bed due to tiredness from my vaccine jabs, I have to listen to an audio book to keep my mind active. ‘Rest’ doesn’t come naturally for me. It is something that I have to work hard to achieve it. Sounds weird but I’m pretty sure someone out there can resonate with me too.

Random Monday night (actually it is Tuesday morning) and here I am doing my random monthly post. Taking a short break tomorrow to accompany the kiddos on a staycation. Just praying for good weather (it has been rainy the whole week) and that I will not get too annoyed by the 3 and 6-year-old girls.

Hang in thereeeeee. Christmas and 2022 is coming real soon!

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