You’ll know that Singapore is getting ready for her birthday when you spot red and white flags hanging from windows all around the city-state in the days leading up to this much awaited public holiday. A nation awash in a brightly coloured sea of red, Singapore is a sight to behold.
Singapore holds its national day celebrations on 9 August every year, because on this day in 1965, Singapore broke away from Malaysia to become an independent nation.
Historical events leading to Singapore’s Independence
Prior to becoming an independent nation, a merger between Singapore, Federation of Malaya and Borneo territories, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak was proposed by the then Malayan Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman on 27 May 1961. This merger to form Malaysia for political and economic reasons took place on 16 September 1963, therefore ending 144 years of British rule in Singapore.
This merger was unstable mainly because of political and ideological differences between the leaders of Singapore and Malaysia. Political, economic, financial and social incompatibility led to two racial riots in Singapore in 1964 and in 1965 Malaysian PM Tunku Abdul Rahman expelled Singapore from the Federation, thus leading to Singapore’s independence on 9 August 1965. Since Singapore obtained independence against its will, the nation prefers to call it National Day, rather than Independence Day.
Celebrating Singapore’s Success Story on National Day
The air is filled with a pulsating, patriotic zeal all around the country and Singaporeans and foreigners come together to celebrate the Singapore spirit. Everyone displays their national pride singing national songs, indulging in their favorite local cuisine and having private celebrations at schools and homes.
However, it is Singapore’s National Day Parade that gets the most attention. Some queue up for a whole day to get free tickets to this much anticipated event which is disbursed to citizens and permanent residents (not tourists) through a random allocation. This has changed in the recent years since tickets are released for rehearsal shows every week leading up to the big day on 9 August. Others watch the broadcast on TV in the comfort of their homes.
Formerly held at the Padang or the National Stadium, which is currently being rebuilt, the event has temporarily been moved to the Marina Bay floating platforms, the world’s largest floating stage, since 2007. Each year, the parade would revolve around a different theme that guides the planning of the parade.
Audiences witness some of the nation’s greatest technological advances that are performed and displayed as decorated floats, parades, an aerial fly-over at Marina Bay, stunts, fastidiously synchronised dances and cinematic storytelling that recount Singapore’s history. Singapore celebrates its unique multiculturalism with multi-ethnic performances, traditional musical instruments and colourful dances.
Military and civilian contingents crisply march in unison, followed by exhilarating air displays by fighter jets and a defence display that features Singapore’s new military hardware and capabilities. Other highlights are the Presidential 21-gun salute and the Prime Minister’s address in which he congratulates Singaporeans on their Independence Day and wishes the nation future success. All Singaporeans join to recite the national pledge and sing the national anthem and reaffirm their love and trust for the nation.
Highlight of the evening is the impressive fireworks, launched from six different locations which light up the night sky in a dazzle of raindrops, hearts and sparkling starbursts.
Favorite spots to view fireworks include the Merlion Park, Esplanade Waterfront Promenade, Helix Bridge, Marina Bay Sands Boulevard or for best aerial views, atop Singapore Flyer, in your own spacious, air-conditioned capsule. Singapore Flyer, which is the world’s largest observation structure of its kind offers a special National Day Full Butler Sky Dining flight, where you are pampered with a 4-course fine dining menu and you sip the Singapore Sling, as you watch the sky break out into bright colorful lights.
The National Day is also the best time to take in the lush cityscape, in a trishaw ride around the suburban areas in the country. You could visit the Singapore Art Museum for free and take advantage of the various discount sales on at retail outlets.
It’s also time to enjoy the various restaurant and bar deals offering mouth-watering local multi-cultural delicacies such as chicken rice, chai tow kuay (the not-sweet-not carrot cake), Chili Crab, Satay (Malay-style barbecue meat skewers), chicken curry and a variety of brightly colored Nyonya Kueh (local desserts and cakes).
It is this very spirit that brings together a diverse community of people who despite racial and religious differences are united as one, forming their own unique culture, heritage and a shared identity. Through the wise vision of the nation’s pragmatic leaders, Singaporeans have built this fabulous island nation with their indomitable spirit, which comes alive on Singapore National Day.