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This August, Singapore will experience a National Day like no other as we celebrate together in the face of a global pandemic. However, did you know that this would not be the first time we’ve experienced a National Day that is out of the ordinary?

After Singapore became a self-governing state under the British on 3 June 1959, National Day was celebrated in June for a few years during the early 1960s. Find out how National Day was celebrated then and check out some of the related archival sources in the Singapore Policy History Project’s story, “The Making of a Nation – Forging a Singapore Identity”.

Oral History Interviews

1. Oral History Interview with Vaidyanathan Thirunavukkarasu, Former Press Liaison Officer at Ministry of Culture
Acc No. 2307

The Ministry of Culture’s Aneka Ragam Rakyat (People’s Cultural Concerts)

2. Oral History Interview with Shah Mohamed Tahir, Former In-house Producer/Arranger at Hype Records
Acc No. 3512

A united effort to pull off the National Day parade, for performers and spectators alike

Declassified Government Files

1. Title: National Loyalty Week Celebrations
Period: 17/10/59 - 23/11/60
Microfilm and File Reference: AR 0015 / MC 311-59
Creating agency: Ministry of Culture

As part of the National Loyalty Week (NLW), the Government staged a week-long exhibition, "People's Government at Work" . The Exhibition was just one of the activities organised to celebrate NLW and the installation of the first Malayan Head of State (Yang di-Pertaun Negara) on 3 December 1959. Other activities included a march past and a float procession. The Ministry also scheduled activities for the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and all the other ministers to participate during the NLW.

2. Title: Outdoor Cultural Shows - Organised By Ministry Of Culture
Period: 23/07/59 - 22/06/60
Microfilm and File Reference: AR 005 / MC 91-59
Creating agency: Ministry of Culture

The Ministry of Culture organised the first outdoor concert as early as 1959. The Ministry created specific events and activities to promote nation-building, enhance inter-cultural awareness, racial understanding and bonding among the four main races (Malay, Chinese, Indian and Others). For instance, working with different cultural organisations, agencies and schools, it launched a series of Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat concerts - People's Cultural Concerts, held at open-air venues such as the Padang and the Botanic Gardens.

3. Title: National Day Celebrations 1962. 1) Rally + March Past 2) Trade Union Returns
Period: 05/05/62 - 01/06/62
Microfilm and File Reference: AR 043 / MC 306-61 Pt 5
Creating agency: Ministry of Culture

The National Day celebrations in the early 1960s were different from present celebrations. One major difference – in those days, the parade took place in the morning . Read about the activities and participating organisations and their proposed National Day celebration activities.

Audiovisual Recordings

1. This, Our Singapore (1): A Nation In The Making
Date: 1962
Acc No. 1998004292
Mediacorp Pte Ltd, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore

This 1962 radio programme looks at nation-building through various cultural and arts activities, services and facilities developed for the people of Singapore. Examples include Aneka Ragam (the people's variety concerts), the Cultural Festival 1982, Malay as the national language, the introduction of television broadcasting by early 1963, the setting up of the National Theatre, the National Museum and the National Library.

2. Diary Of A Nation: Flag And Anthem
Date: 1988
Acc No. 2016011758
Mediacorp Pte Ltd, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore

This episode looks back on 3 December 1959, when Singapore's symbols of state were officially installed. It examines the prevailing sentiments of the time, and the necessity for and significance of the symbols.

3. Let's Speak English: The Library
Date: 1973
Acc No. 2006001256
Ministry of Education, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore

English lesson for Secondary 2 students featuring the Han children visiting the National Library at Stamford Road to borrow new books.


National day 1966

1. The inaugural National Day Parade was held in front of City Hall in 1966 a year after Singapore’s separation from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. This photograph shows students rehearsing Malay dance.
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore

National day 1985

2. Venue of the National Day Parade changed a few times over the decades, and this included the National Stadium as well – with the Indian cultural group performing on the track in the 1985 National Day Parade at this venue located in Kallang.
Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore