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Celebrating National Day: Things You May Not Know

National Day 1991 at the National Stadium [Image source: MITA Collection, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore]

With Singapore’s 57th National Day just around the corner, preparations for this year’s celebrations are in full swing across the island. From schools to the heartlands, people from all walks of life are coming together to celebrate.

Whether we’re commemorating those who fought to defend Singapore during the Japanese Occupation, or the evolution of our kampong spirit, let’s take a step back to appreciate how far we’ve come. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two about Singapore! And don’t forget to check out the details at the end of the article on how you can take home exclusive Book Bags upcycled from the lamppost banners used in 2021’s National Day Parade!

1. The Sacrifices Made to Defend Singapore During WWII

The Kranji War Cemetery and Singapore Memorial [Image source: Janice Loo]

Did you know that Kranji was the point of entry for the Japanese during the invasion? The soldiers stationed at this site did their best to hold out against the Japanese soldiers for at least two days, before succumbing to the attack. Kranji also served as a prisoner-of-war camp and a makeshift hospital during the Japanese Occupation. Today, the Kranji War Memorial honours the Commonwealth casualties of WWII. Read more stories and anecdotes of these valiant soldiers here.

2. Making Wartime Food Delicious

Tapioca noodles — a wartime recipe [Image source: National Library Board]

The war didn’t just bring bloodshed, but also difficult times. With Malaya taken over by the Japanese, Singapore’s main source of foodstuff was cut off. This pushed those living in Singapore to cope with rice shortage and people started cultivating alternative staple foods, like tapioca and sweet potato. Watch cookbook author Lee Geok Boi as she recreates two delicious wartime recipes, a testament to the grit and inventiveness of wartime Singaporeans:

3. Our Kampong Spirit and Its Evolution

Ethos Books, 2020

Kampong life has always been an integral part of Singapore. Post-war, as the nation struggled to rebuild, Singaporeans found it necessary to live harmoniously in multi-racial neighbourhoods. After our independence in 1965, the kampong lifestyle gradually made its way to high-rise housing estates. How did people cope with this change? Author Josephine Chia shares her own experiences and other real-life stories in Goodbye My Kampong!: Potong Pasir, 1966 to 1975—a sequel to her 2014 Singapore Literature prize-winning book, Kampong Spirit — Gotong Royong: Life in Potong Pasir, 1955 to 1965.

Borrow the eBook here.

4. The 1968 National Day Parade (and Those That Came After)

The 1968 National Day Parade [Image source: Yusof Ishak Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore]

The 1968 National Day Parade remains one of the most memorable parades in Singapore’s history. Marching and performing that continued despite a heavy thunderstorm reflected the resilience of a then young nation. Anyone who has witnessed a National Day Parade in person, or even through a broadcast, can probably recall the sense of pride and belonging while celebrating Singapore’s milestones. But who exactly puts it together, how long does it take to do so, and how have the themes changed over the years? Learn more about the history, significance and evolution of our nation-building celebrations here.

For fact junkies, here’s one for you to chew on: Did you know that National Day was celebrated in June for a few years after Singapore became a self-governing state under the British in 1959?

For more trips down memory lane, check out these nostalgic visuals from the National Library’s PictureSG Collection. Here’s one that’ll take you right back to yesteryear:

A row of two-storey shophouses on Kitchener Road, 1966 [Image source: Lee Kip Lin Collection, PictureSG, National Library, Singapore]

Give Back to the Community This National Day

As part of the National Library Board’s Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 (LAB25) and DDB Group Singapore’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, one-of-a-kind tote bags will be available for sale at www.lamppostyle.com from 1 August. You can get them for $28 each, and profits from the sales will go to NLB’s KidsRead programme to support reading among children from less privileged families.

The unique tote bags sold for this year’s The LampPost Project come in varying designs and are made from upcycled National Day Parade 2021 banners and flags:

Be the first 50 to collect your tote bag — or Book Bags, as we like to call them — and borrow a book from the Singapore collection from the Jurong Regional Library to redeem an exclusive bookmark made from the same upcycled materials! (Pro tip: Scan the QR code found on the tag on each bag for interesting National Day themed eReads!)

[Update: The Book Bags are sold out. Thank you for the support!]

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Text by
Lavania Krishnamurthy
National Library Board

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