Every year, Singapore celebrates its birthday on 9 August with the vibrant National Day Parade, also known as the NDP. In 2021 things have been a little different, so this year the celebrations on 9 August consisted of a scaled down Ceremonial Parade.
The actual Singapore National Day Parade 2021 is postponed to 21 August, which is after the end of the latest Covid-19 restrictions.
These changes are obviously to keep us all safe and united. So it’s fitting that the theme for both the Ceremonial Parade and the Singapore National Day Parade in 2021 is strength of spirit, specifically – “What does our Singapore Spirit mean to you?”
Some details are still to be decided, but here’s what we know so far about the Singapore National Day Celebrations for 2021.
1. Historical roots of Singapore National Day Parade
Before we jump into NDP 2021, it’s worth remembering that the National Day Parade (or NDP) is an annual celebration of Singapore’s independence day. So the first ever parade took place in 1966, after Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. The parade involved over 23,000 men, women and children, and stretched all around the padang, the big field (or padang) in front of what used to be the national law courts.
Now this heritage building has been converted into the National Gallery Singapore, and the NDP has moved to a dramatic new location – the Marina Bay Floating Platform.
Right from the start, the NDP was a celebration of strength, patriotism, unity and creativity, with military marches followed by vibrant cultural dances and musical performances.
Which brings us to the Singapore National Day Parade 2021 on August 21. What can you expect to see?
Singapore National Day Parade 2021: What’s On
1. NDP Theme 2021: Together, Our Singapore Spirit
This year’s theme is all about pride and hope. Because although the pandemic has been a testing time for everyone – and it continues to ebb and flow around the world – Singapore has come through the worst, united and hopeful for the future. That’s something we can be proud of.
Fun fact: This year the circular Singapura lion’s head logo hides a clever secret – the number 56 is hidden in the mane to mark 56 years of Singapore independence. Can you spot it?
2. Will there be NDP 2021 fireworks?
Yes – there have already been fireworks rehearsals in the Marina Bay area, but Singaporeans are being asked to “play their part” and watch displays from home. It’s expected that there will also be NDP fireworks set off in various heartland residential areas so people can watch safely from their windows and balconies.
3. Will there be parachute jumps by the Red Lions for NDP 2021?
The Red Lions are already practicing. They’re set to make free-fall jumps at various heartland sites. They were actually going to be part of the Ceremonial Parade on 9 August, but their much-loved parachute segment was delayed, in light of covid restrictions. Also up in the air, the huge helicopters with the state flag and fighter jets from the Republic of Singapore Air Force will fly across the heartlands, so we can lift our eyes to the skies.
4. NDP 2021 performers
Good news! This year, the NDP 2021 will feature 1,200 performers split across five sites, both live and virtual. 600 performers will strut it out on 21 August 2021 at The Float @ Marina Bay. The performance will be integrated with virtual shows from over 600 performers from various schools, universities and other social organisations. Also joining the party is the return of the Colours Party, together with the Military and Home team.
With the theme of Singapore spirit in mind, the show will focus on the resilience of Singaporeans from each generation. There will be four acts: hope and aspirations, challenges, strength within and strength together. Together with live and pre-recorded shows, the NDP 2021 is suited for those excitedly watching at home.
The show will also include animated short films and performances that have been pre-recorded in places such as Jewel Changi Airport, The National University of Singapore, Marina Barrage and Yio Chu Kang Stadium.
The show will be hosted by Joakim Gomez, Eswari Gunasagar, Fauzie Laily and Patricia Mok. The new songs (see below) will also be performed. Despite Covid restrictions, the plan is to make NDP 2021 just as grand and joyous as previous years.
5. All participants and spectators in NDP 2021 must be fully vaccinated
Unlike previous years, there will be no public ballot for this year’s Singapore NDP 2021. Instead, viewing will be on a by-invite-only basis. The audience will be “everyday heroes”, in other words, Singaporeans who have served on the front lines or in essential roles. They include hawkers, transport workers, teachers and cleaner. Everyone in the audience must also have pre-event Covid testing.
All NDP 2021 performers must undergo antigen rapid testing before every rehearsal. and there will only be one preview show before the main event. Howver, the actual flow of the event is expected to follow the format of 2020.
Certain areas around The Float @ Marina Bay will be closed to the public to ensure safe distancing. They include the Helix Bridge, Marina Barrage and Esplanade Park.
6. National Day Parade 2021 theme songs
We’ve got plenty of choice for songs this year, with three catchy tunes. The NDP 2021 theme song is called “The Road Ahead”, with lyrics and music by Linying and Evan Low. You can watch the music video above, performed by Linying, Sezairi Sezali, Shye-Anne Brown and Shabir. The song reflects the uncertainties of the past year, but with a touch of future optimism. The goal is to leave us with the feeling that even though we don’t know what’s coming, the resilient Singapore spirit will carry us onward.
Other than the theme song, you can also check out this original song, ‘Sprit Anew’, by Aisyah Aziz and RHAUN. The song is designed to be uplifting, and remind us to stay hopeful. Because even when times are hard, there is a chance for better times ahead. You can watch the video here.
‘Breathing City’, by SEZAIRI and Charlie Lim, is another original song that’s part of the Singapore National Day Parade 2021 celebrations. This song celebrates the national’s heritage, and the peoples who built Singapore. Watch the video here.
7. As tradition, a special ceremonial parade took place on 9 August
There’s no denying that 2021 has been an unusual year. But as PM Lee Hsien Loong posted to Facebook, “We have never failed to hold a ceremony on 9 August, to reaffirm our independence and sovereignty. This year was no different.”
So on Monday, 9 August 2021, a scaled down Ceremonial Parade took place at the Marina Bay Floating Platform. As well as fighter jets streaking across the sky in formation, the parade featured 600 participants from the Singaporean Armed Forces and Home Team. Another 200 people from youth groups and social organisations attending virtually.
This ceremonial parade had no public spectators. Instead a small audience of front liners, essential workers, and community volunteers cheered from the stands. PM Lee Hsien Loong also attended, and greeted the audience in the stands, and those watching from home. You can say it was an audience of “everyday heroes”, symbolising the quiet determination of Singapore to ride out the storm.
8. How to make the NDP 2021 spirit last all year
This is a year when we’ve learnt the importance of helping each other. So in order to give back to the community, this year’s National Day celebrations on 21 August aim to publicise and support the Singapore Cares movement. This initiative hopes to bring the nation together in the sprit of service and compassion.
You can find a list of volunteer opportunities or organisations to donate to here. After all, studies show that helping others is one of the fastest ways to feel good. So perhaps the gift of giving is exactly the thing you need to put you in a celebratory mood in 2021?
9. See musical performances at Red Dot August
The National Day 2021 celebrations are unusual – partly because they’ve been designed for viewing on television and video. Plus, this year we can prolong the festivities all throughout August. Red Dot August 2021 features local performances available online for you to enjoy at home. You can find musical performances, moving speeches and film screenings, with new content uploaded every single day.
Find and watch the performances here.
By Isabel Wibowo, August 2021