Celebrate SG: Feeling Like Home Away from Home

This year’s National Day is unlike any other – it’s the first digital National Day Parade we’ve experienced! Whether you’ve had a downsized celebration with friends and family or tuned-in for a Zoom party, it’s the perfect time to reminisce the journey of our little red dot through the eyes of some of our overseas Singaporeans and local expat friends.

14 August 2020 / By SGN

Mini festive getaway to Chong Ming Island

Since meeting her husband in Taiwan, Michele Rajic is a true “citizen of the world” having lived in five different countries. Even as Michele has lived abroad since young, she remains rooted as a proud Singaporean – one who tries to sing “Home” perfectly and who automatically circles August 9th in every diary and calendar.

“2020 has been a crazy year, hasn’t it!? We’ve just returned from the US to Shanghai and are currently still under home quarantine. Even as we were in the US, I had assisted SingCham Shanghai with this year’s National Day preparations.

This brings me back to 2019 when I celebrated one of the most memorable National Day! We had just arrived in Shanghai two days before the 9th and despite being jet-lagged, we joined some friends from the Rotary Merlion Club Shanghai and celebrated National Day at Frankie’s, the first Singapore restaurant In Shanghai!

Thankfully, this year, we were ‘released’ in time to celebrate National Day with close friends in Shanghai for a short road trip to our village in Chong Ming Island! We checked into a minsu (a Chinese style bed-and-breakfast) and prepared ingredients for the barbecue later on that night – we even danced and sang to Zouk’s Mambo Jambo!

The next day we ate a locally prepared breakfast at the minsu and headed back to Shanghai for another party at a friend’s house!”

(From left: Celebrating a cosy National Day 2020 with friends and family; lady from Chong Ming Island seated outside the minsu lodge; the start of the barbecue party as we’re taking turns to prepare the food.)

Quarantine in France makes me appreciate home even more

“Where I Belong” is Audrey Lee’s favourite National Day theme song which reminds her of her carefree childhood spent in Singapore in the early 2000s. She reminisces of a simpler time when she had big dreams and a naïve optimism that it would one day come true.

Now based in France where she is pursuing her passion in the arts, Audrey pens down her thoughts and plans for National Day this year:

“Last year, I attended a fun celebration with the French-Singapore community hosted by the Singaporean Embassy in Paris. It was an embassy planned event and there were lots of catering of local delights e.g. satay, achar, chicken rice, curry. Everything was delicious and it really hit my craving for food from home!

There were also games and a competition relating to Singapore’s Hawker Food Culture UNESCO nomination. One of which included participants bringing their home-cooked Singaporean food for the panel to taste and amongst the participants, a winner was chosen.

Another game was one where all invitees had to write about their favourite hawker dish to qualify for a lucky draw (a very Singaporean activity that I love). I think the best part of the event was meeting and connecting with fellow Singaporeans from all walks of life who found themselves settling in France. I enjoyed meeting and connecting with fellow Singaporeans living in France.

While there was no celebration this year due to COVID-19 restrictions in France, I streamed the live telecast of the celebrations back home. To me, National Day is the day commemorating Singapore’s sovereignty and celebration of its self-governance with hopes of a brighter future for all of its citizens.

It is also a day for all of us to remember the many uncertainties faced by our government at that point of time on 9 August 1965 as well as every contributing citizens’ sacrifice, blood sweat and tears, to build a strong nation and the internationally reputed country we know of and live comfortably today. I think of my grandparents and my parents who took risks because they had nothing to lose and who worked really hard to give future generations a better life.”

(From left: Watching the telecast amidst a heatwave with no aircon or fan at 38 degrees – missing the comforts of Singapore; listening to “Where I Belong” reminds the reservoir near my flat back in Singapore where I always take walks around in the morning and try to spot some otters or fishes; the taste of home has to be my favourite hawker dish from Singapore and that is the Teochew Chai Tow Kway from Bukit Timah Food Centre – I’ve been going to this store with my family for as long as I can remember.)

Cosy celebration from the comforts of our home

Growing up in Singapore, Kim Jeong Won had many good memories of attending the National Day events organised by schools and even remembers feeling completely starstruck when attending the National Day Parade. Kim takes a trip down memory lane and recounts her fondest National Day experience:

“My fondest memory from those days would be from my primary school days – in Primary 3, we were all given the chance to attend the parade in person. It was my first ever experience going to a parade and to be able to attend one as thrilling and huge as the National Day parade was something that I could not wrap my head around as an impressionable 9-year-old.

The heart-pumping performances, colourful fireworks and heartwarming cheers from the passionate red sea of Singaporeans all around me is a memory that I hold close to my heart, even after all these years.

The song for that year was “Reach Out For The Stars” by Rui En and Taufik Bautista. Before the parade, our school had made us practice the dance moves for the song, and I remember my classmates and I excitedly performing our dance moves from our seats as Rui En and Taufik performed on the main stage.

The singing of the National Day theme song is still a segment I look forward to the most after all these years – it’s always nice to see how we are reinterpreting the old classics such as “Home” by Kit Chan, or discovering new sounds for the Singapore that has come so far.

It is no wonder that “Reach Out For The Stars” and “Home” are my top two favourite National Day songs. Home is really where the heart is, and my friends are part of the reason why I feel so connected to Singapore.

My friends and I had a small get-together and we indulged in some good old Singaporean cuisine classics – chilli crab – and winded off with us singing along to our favourite NDP theme songs while watching the fireworks display from my house, safe and sound but still together.”

(From left: food and friends have all arrived and we’re excited to dig in and let the National Day 2020 celebration begin; we’re only able to watch the fireworks from the television but at least we got a cute photo with it; locally brewed beer and ice-cream flavours inspired by local desserts Chendol and Onde Onde to end the night on the sweet note!)

Home is where the heart is no matter where you are or how you celebrate it, truly!

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