Sunday, August 16, 2009

National Day Highlights

So I mentioned previously that National Day was last week and Bryan and I watched it on TV. The whole thing was pretty interesting, and I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you. There was a parade by the bay, and there were thousands of people there. The lucky ones that won the lottery were in a stadium and got to watch a huge show that took place after the parade. The show covered the history of Singapore, so it was pretty educational for us to watch. (For a hilarious and slightly ridiculous interpretation of Singapore history, watch this video by a local comedian. We didn't understand all the references, but it was still pretty funny.)

On National Day, we were playing a board game while passively watching the festivities, so we weren't paying very close attention. And then something happened that got us glued to the TV pretty quick. We heard "Breaking news. Singapore is under terrorist attack. There has been an attack at Marina Bay. Please stay tuned for more information." This announcement was followed by screaming. We were on our feet in a second; Bryan was at the window looking for signs of smoke or fire, and I was on the Internet, trying to find more information, silently hoping that my family wasn't watching the news in the U.S. It was a terrifying few seconds...until we realized that it was all a part of the National Day show. A display of Sinagpore's military power followed. I was not amused.

The other unique thing about Singapore's National Day is that each year they get a band to write a song especially for National Day. The video is played on TV and on the song is on the radio and playing in stores for the weeks leading up to the big day. This year's song was good- it's catchy and inspiring, and it appeals to people of all ages (I love it, and so does our realtor's son, who is 10). You can hear the song and watch the video here:

Anyway, the result is that by the time National Day rolls around, everyone knows all the words to the National Day song. So there is a parade, and then a big show, and it's all building up to this penultimate moment when the band performs the song. It's huge- everyone sings along, and it's a very empowering, patriotic moment in which it feels like the whole nation is happy and singing this song and really feeling united. After the song, at a preset time (8:22 pm) everyone says the pledge. Standing at the window in the apartment, I could hear some of the neighbors reciting the words along with the people on TV. It seemed like everyone walked away from the experience with a renewed sense of national pride, of feeling strong and banded together as Singaporeans. And I thought that it was a pretty clever of the government to arrange the National Day song and to work everything up to such an emotional moment. It seems like a cunning way to instill a sense of patriotism in the people.

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