IN CONJUNCTION with the upcoming 57th Merdeka celebrations on Aug 31, StarMetro speaks to several people born on that day and what it means to celebrate their birthday on such a significant day.
Andrea Chuang Hui-Chen, who will be 25 years old this Aug 31 has fond memories of celebrating her birthday when growing up, and misses the fun and excitement she felt as a child.
“Since I was five years old, my father would drive the family to celebrate the Merdeka countdown at Gurney Drive in Penang.
“As a child, I remember it being very chaotic as the roads were jammed up and big groups of motorcyclists would ride on the road with the Malaysian flag tied behind their motorbikes.
“On some occasions, we would join in the countdown towards midnight and as soon the clock struck 12, we cheered and watched the fireworks show awe. This was also when my family would wish me ‘happy birthday’,” she said.
She added that the family tradition continued until she was in secondary school before it fizzled out.
Having moved to Kuala Lumpur five years ago, Chuang said she missed celebrating her birthday with her family in Penang.
“These days, I celebrate my birthday with friends in Kuala Lumpur by having a simple dinner and maybe hang out afterwards, but I still miss the good old days,” the advertising executive said.
Chuang said a friend from primary school shared the same birthday and they never failed to talk about their pre-birthday plans and party experiences, afterwards.
“Those days we did not have things like social media or other networking tools, so our communications and emotions were more raw, fun and intimate,” she said, adding that the Merdeka celebrations were a lot more fun when she was a child.
Although Chuang has not made any Merdeka plans this year, she plans to attend a Merdeka party and celebrate the countdown with her friends.
A teacher at SMK (P) Taman Petaling, in Petaling Jaya, C. Cecilia said a former principal used to announce her birthday on the eve of National Day during the school’s morning assembly, which would result in her receiving cheers from her peers and the students.
“At the start of each month, the principal would announce the names of teachers and staff members who celebrate their birthdays during the month at the assembly.
“However in my case, she made it a special point to announce my birthday, a day before Aug 31.
“Not only would she announce it to the whole school, she would also hug me and give me a birthday card,” the mother of two reminisced.
Cecilia, however, remarked that her most memorable memory in conjunction with Merdeka was being the lead coach for a group of students for the first Merdeka celebrations held in Putrajaya in 2003.
“That year, every school in Selangor was required to participate in the Merdeka celebrations in Putrajaya.
“I was given the task to train a group of students to dance during the parade which made it my most memorable birthday celebration on Merdeka Day,” the teacher with 17 years’ experience said.
Cecilia observed that the younger generation seemed to be more excited about celebrating Merdeka Day compared with the older generation.
“I see this in my students and among youths,” she said.
“When I was young, we used to only watch the National Day parades and programmes on television. Nowadays, the Government plays a major role in spreading the message of Merdeka to the young,” she said.
She added that sharing her birthday with the nation had made her feel more patriotic and appreciative of the country’s independence.
Meanwhile, Jason Kwong Kok Hing, whose name in Cantonese means “National Day”, said his birthday gave his family an opportunity to get together to celebrate when he was young.
“As it was a public holiday, it became a reason for my family and relatives to celebrate my birthday.
“I used to have a blast as a child, but now I don’t think too much of it.
“Even birthday cakes have became a rarity over the years,” he said.
The editor of a men’s lifestyle magazine, Kwong, who will turn 34 on Aug 31, is also a father of two daughters, aged three and one.
He said as a teenager and a young working adult, he had lived in Singapore and Australia for several years and had been given a few nicknames including “Mr Merdeka and National Man” by his friends.
“It is worth taking a moment to be thankful for what we have instead of what we do not have, especially when we compare ourselves with citizens of other countries around the world.
“If a birthday party is thrown for me this year, I think my daughters will have more fun, especially with my older one insisting on blowing out the candles on my behalf while the younger one might try to smother cake all over her,” he said.