We’re 53!

Singapore turned 53 years young on Thursday, marking its 1965 expulsion from Malaysia (with whom it had had a brief and stormy marriage) and subsequent declaration of independence. Singaporeans love their country, usually with good reason: it’s clean, safe, green, civilly diverse, easy to get around, and a great place to eat. So the country celebrates this holiday with the a good bit of nationalistic hoopla. The Singapore flag is everywhere …

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… including in the arms of this fortune cat (maneki-neko) in the Italian restaurant downstairs from us:

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When we walked by in the morning, our local community center was setting up for some sort of a celebration (this kind of plastic chair is ubiquitous in Singapore) …

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… and what says happy birthday better than a booth about firearms and weapons attacks?

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I thought that was strange, but Singapore takes civil defense very seriously.

On the evening of National Day, the tall buildings turn some variety of red and white:IMG_3626.jpg

Even the Singapore Flyer gets in on the color scheme:

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The big focus of all of this enthusiasm is the National Day parade at the Marina Bay Float. Unfortunately, you can only see the parade — and the big National Day music and dance show — if you have won a lottery ticket. I am not eligible to enter the lottery, because tickets are only given to Singaporean citizens and permanent residents. This is frustrating, because the whole evening celebration (including the fireworks display) is designed just for the people who have tickets and are seated in stands on the Float that faces Marina Bay.

Now I’m no event planner, but I don’t understand why a country with the smarts and the means of providing National Day entertainment to hundreds of thousands of people chooses to restrict the fun to roughly 30,000 lottery winners. If you don’t (or can’t, in my case) score a ticket, your options are limited: you can either (1) get a partial view of the goings-on by standing somewhere else around the bay, or (2) stay home and watch the performances on TV. I chose the former option, which involved a frustrating amount of walking in huge and hot crowds to try to find a place where I could see something. Each set of security guards I reached said, “sorry, this entrance closed — walk that way, the next entrance is open.” That would, inevitably, be a lie. I ended up with a view of a fence. But if I leaned over, I could see the lucky ticket-holders milling around…

IMG_3625… and if I looked up, I could see the fireworks overhead:

These fireworks came almost entirely in white and red for the occasion:

This year’s fireworks display felt short compared to last year’s, but I was still glad to have gone to see them. Happy birthday, Singapore!

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