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.