Missing the Parade of Nations this UN Day

Missing the Parade of Nations this UN DayUN Day just isn’t the same without the Parade of Nations.

Today, October 24th, marks the 66th anniversary of the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations. I confess I’d never even heard of UN Day until we moved to Singapore and my daughters started attending the Canadian International School. But according to Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations,

“UN Day is a day on which we resolve to do more. More to protect those caught up in armed conflict, to fight climate change and avert nuclear catastrophe; more to expand opportunities for women and girls, and to combat injustice and impunity….”

As befits a school with a student body hailing from more than 50 countries, CIS celebrated UN Day as a joyous tribute to multiculturalism. Like many schools around the world, they stretched a single day of commemoration into UN Week, and filled it with activities designed to educate the students about the cultures of their classmates.

The jewel in the multicultural crown — where the kids really got a chance to showcase their cultural identities — was the Parade of Nations. It was held outdoors in the covered gymnasium, and the body heat from all those eager parents, combined with an ambient temperature of 30 degrees or more and 85% humidity, made it feel like we were wallowing in a multinational soup. Even so, it was a big draw; spectators had to arrive extra early to get seats.

As the nations were announced alphabetically, the children — dressed in national costume or their country’s colours — marched proudly into the gymnasium, brandishing their flags and waving to the delighted crowd.

Like many TCKs, a lot of these kids had a somewhat fluid idea of what “home” meant. One of Elder Daughter’s friends, for example, was half Irish and half Sri Lankan but had lived in Singapore most of her life. We were never sure what country she’d be marching with in any given year. Sometimes siblings would split up, each one identifying with a different nationality. Other kids marched with a country they’d never been to, but considered to be “home.” This all added a further international dimension to an event already overflowing with cultural diversity.

Since I no longer have the good fortune to sit in those rock-hard bleachers and watch the Parade of Nations in person, I invite you to join me as I revisit a few of my favourite moments from past parades.

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About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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10 Responses to Missing the Parade of Nations this UN Day

  1. Margie says:

    Thanks, Maria – loved this post! Especially the video!

    Since my last comment (yes, I know, they’re very far & few between – but I eagerly read each & every post!), I’ve had the chance to move back to Japan, and so your thoughts & observations hit home much more truly than when I was in Seattle. Your posts are always the highlight of my day!

    • Maria says:

      Margie, how great for you! I know how much you love Japan. I hope you time there will be full of good things. And thanks for the kind words — now you’ve made my day.

  2. So cute. It is coming up again and you should have READ the comments from parents in our KG daughter’s class when I asked “what does national dress look like for Americans” ?? So funny!

    • Maria says:

      We had the same issue. The kids ended up wearing red and white, hockey jerseys, or Canadian flag t-shirts. The American kids wore a variety of things, from flags to cowboy hats to Native American headdresses. It was all adorable, though. 🙂

  3. I just loved this post! At my kids’ school they dress up and do a similar thing for their International Day in the spring. One year Daughter helped her best friend carry the Kazahk flag – now that’s truly international (and friendly, too). Your recording was great because the kids are soooo proud of representing the various countries.

    Here in The Hague everyone working for the UN gets the day off. The big city celebration is UN Disarmament Day in September when they have a small parade and open up the UN organizations to public tours.

  4. Lovely! I had never heard of UN day either until my parents went to Ukraine and worked in an International school. I wonder why it isnt celebrated more widely?

    • Maria says:

      I’ve wondered the same thing. I believe the UN recommended that all of its member states declare it a public holiday, but I don’t know if any have actually taken this step.

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