Iconic National Day Parades – 1966 to 2020

ECP ​​ ​ Friday, 24 July 2020

It is that time of the year again when all Singaporeans unite to commemorate Singapore’s birthday. While it is nothing new to celebrate the National Day each year, the current circumstances we are experiencing makes the occasion extra special this year.

In order to cope with the Covid-19 situation, Singapore has made several adjustments to the usual format of being held in an open area in front of a live audience.

NDP 2020

Singapore Flag Waving From Home

The main point of this year’s National Day Parade is that all the usual segments of the event will be livestreamed instead. The celebration will be split into morning, afternoon and evening segments with the first, entitled “Strength of Our Nation”, focusing on the history, progress and traditions of Singapore over the past 55 years.

What sets this year’s event apart from previous celebrations is the afternoon segment. Due to the restrictions on meeting, this will feature a series of home engagement activities including a cooking activity for bonding time with the family, arts and crafts for the kids and even home workout activities to keep you fit.


Doing proper warm-ups and stretching exercise before a workout is important to prevent injuries. The most common workout injuries include muscle strain, ankle sprains as well as other knee and joint injuries. A good warm-up helps to increase your body temperature and loosen your joints. It also ensures that there is enough oxygen supplied to your muscles due to the increased blood flow. This means less stress on your joints and tendons. The body is able to better execute sudden movements easily when the joints are warm and well-lubricated, thus reducing the risk of injuries.

With a warm-up done properly, light workouts can be beneficial for people suffering from arthritis as it increases the muscle strength and flexibility of the joints.

Asian lady doing warm-ups in Singapore. Piriformis and glute stretch for Singaporeans

Besides the morning and afternoon segments, the real highlight of the event starts in the evening. Instead of the Padang or Floating Platform, the show will be held indoors for the first time at The Star Performing Arts Centre. These performances will be broadcasted live for the rest of Singapore to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes.

While Singaporeans are used to watching the National Day Parade on their screens each year, some complain that this lacks the spirit and atmosphere of being physically present. However, there are some advantages for this year’s revised format. Aside from preventing the spread of Covid-19 amongst the audience, this is the first year that has been designed from the ground up for an audience that is watching from home, meaning that there are many more opportunities for interaction with the events and programmes. Moreover, watching from home, while perhaps lacking in the sounds and festivities of being present, also means that those with people with lower limb conditions such as those arthritis or diabetic foot problems are able to enjoy the programmes without having to spend extended periods of time on their feet or sitting in cramped positions that restrict blood flow.


Walking or standing for long periods of time causes stress on your joints and muscles. Repetitive movements can damage or worsen existing joint injury. Furthermore, if the weather is cold or rainy, it could affect those with arthritis and cause discomfort.

NDP 1966

1966 National Day Parade

9th August 1966 was the very first time Singapore celebrated National Day after gaining independence on the same date in 1965. The parade started off early in the morning at 9am with 23,000 participants at the Padang.

There were many firsts that happened during Singapore’s first birthday, such as the first parade march by the six contingents of the Singapore army. The fireworks, which are arguably the all-time favourite segment of the National Day Parade, were also a part of the first celebration. Unfortunately, the daylight conditions limited the impact of the fireworks display and later portions of the display failed to ignite correctly, causing the more elaborate displays of lions, dragons and other mythical creatures to be cancelled.

While most of us besides the pioneer generation may not have experienced the parade first-hand, it is certainly a remarkable moment in our shared history.

NDP 1968

NDP 1968 Marching Band

It was an unforgettable morning as Singaporeans across the island gathered at the Padang as the thunderstorms roared overhead and rain drenched the grass field. The gloomy weather came as a surprise to everyone, especially the marching contingent and dignitaries. They braved the rain and marched with soaked clothes and shoes on as everyone cheered them on.

Despite the wet conditions, the spirits of Singaporeans at the parade were not dampened. The celebration went on as usual, and the first live performances were presented as the weather improved, setting the stage for the complex performances and displays that we have today.


Having soaking wet shoes on your feet is not only uncomfortable, it can also worsen or increase the risk of developing athlete’s foot. The damp condition of the shoes encourages the growth of fungal infections and they grow best in areas such as in between the toes due to the warmth and moisture.

It is also said that the present Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was a part of the combined school brass band performing at the parade that day while his father, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, made the decision to let the parade continue on despite the rain. He even rejected the offer of an umbrella.

NDP 2015

NDP 50 banner and audience

2015’s National Day was definitely a memorable one for most of us as we celebrated the nation’s Golden Jubilee. The progress Singapore achieved in just 50 years was no easy feat and that made the occasion even more highly anticipated. $40.5 million was spent on the SG50 campaign.

The parade itself brought back some nostalgic memories with a vintage parade march past featuring policemen in khaki shorts and firemen in the old olive-green uniforms. The colourful streamer float from the People’s Association also made a comeback at the parade. There were even some participants from the first National Day Parade revisiting their old roles that year! The eventful day started off with the broadcast of an exclusive recording of the founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, reading the Proclamation of independence for the first time.

NDP 2015 holding old streamer float

Aside from special performances and displays, other special details included having 50 different funpack designs to commemorate the 50th birthday of Singapore.

Past NDPs vs NDP 2020

The NDP rehearsals for a usual year take about 4 months. This typically involves a large number of performers, volunteers and crew, resulting in crowding and various injuries such as heat injuries, blisters and sunburn. The multiple rehearsals can also potentially cause ankle sprains and heel or knee pain for the performers due to the extended periods of time spent on their feet. In addition, the costume shoes that performers wear are often oddly shaped and or poorly fitting. This can lead to the development of bunions, ingrown toenails, or corns and calluses.

As for this year, the number of performers has been reduced from 2,600 to around 80 to 100 people and rehearsals have been reduced in length. On top of reducing the risks of Covid-19 infection, there are also fewer opportunities for injuries to occur.

NDP 2020 will undoubtedly be a new experience for us but we should all appreciate everything we have despite the rough times. Stay safe and have a heart-warming National Day!

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