Written by Samantha Chang
We all know and love the tried-and-true methods of celebrating Merdeka day: hanging up our national flag on our gates, watching the parades, and setting off deafening fireworks that trigger the neighbourhood dogs into barking frenzies all night. But with all the exciting changes that have taken place in our country this year, this Merdeka’s festivities deserve a bit more zesting up! So here are four new ways for you to celebrate Merdeka this year:
- Take a trip down memory lane
Malaysians are a nostalgic species, as demonstrated by our collective tendency to weep at the sight of any Yasmin Ahmad Petronas ad. There is some magic in the way that these ads elicit the same response in so many of us – transcending race, age and gender. They rely on our shared history and cultural symbols, things that tie us together and remind us of how far we’ve come together.
So this Merdeka, take a trip down memory lane and celebrate what being a Malaysian means to you personally. Here’s an idea: you could gather some of your primary and secondary school friends, put on your old school uniforms, break out the batu seremban/uno cards and munch on White Rabbit sweets while you reminisce about the good ol’ days – after all, there is no experience comparable to the Malaysian public school experience (for better or for worse).
- Go on a (guilt-free) shopping spree
Forget the H&Ms and Typos – our local craftsmen and artists can offer a better bang for your buck. Although going local is a tad bit pricier than international retail, you can likely get goods of better quality, while at the same time helping the planet, strengthening our local economy, and best of all – owning something entirely unique!
If you’re looking for gifts, check out Pantun Pins and Salang Design for adorable, local themed knick knacks. Alternatively, Bingka sells art-printed lifestyle products, such as totes and tea towels. Naiise is a local retailer that hosts many local brands, which you can find under their ‘Go Local’ section.
In order from left to right: Salang, Bingka and Pantun Pins
If you’re craving a good read and want to support a local bookshop (many of which boast works by renowned local authors), check out Tintabudi, Lit Books, or Bookalicious. Makers & Co is also hosting a Merdeka bazaar with pop up stores selling fashion, accessories, decor and many more.
3. Party with your fellow countrymen
Of course, nothing beats a good beat. Immerse yourself in the spirit of your community this Merdeka by attending a public event, such as Publika’s Hari Kebangsaan, where open mic performances and celebrations will be taking place. Merdekarya is also hosting a Merdeka show and countdown on Merdeka Eve, featuring well-known homegrown talents such as Azmyl Yunor (who also lectures at Sunway, FYI).
If you’re looking for something more chill and introspective, head over to APW for Rojak: a Malaysian Exhibition for Merdeka; the photographers involved will display works that, in their words, “[revolve] around the idea of diversity and their own perspectives of being Malaysian”.
- Host a Malaysian-themed potluck
You saw it coming, but it’s an established fact that food is the pillar of our culture and a list such as this would not be complete without a mention of our makanan. This Merdeka, throw a potluck consisting of 100% Malaysian food – no pizza, no pasta, no cheating. Maybe even add an extra rule to the theme: everyone has to bring cuisine from an ethnicity that isn’t theirs – or everyone can only bring kuih. Maybe you jazz up the old classics: fill your onde-onde with chocolate, add coconut milk to your Milo, top your roti canai with ice-cream – anything goes. The point, after all, is to make this Merdeka a creative, contemporary one. So innovate – it’s a free country.
Selamat Hari Merdeka 🙂
Can you think of any other unconventional ways of celebrating Merdeka? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!