If you were an autocrat celebrating your 69th birthday amid a wave of global revolution, what would your party look like?
National festivities marked North Korean President Kim Jong-Il’s birthday Wednesday, complete with music shows, ice skating and exhibitions of Kimjongilia, the flower named in the leader’s honor. The streets were decorated with paper lanterns.
(More on TIME.com: Top 10 autocrats in trouble.)
The main event? A synchronized swimming performance choreographed to include details of the celebration, including the date and a human representation of the Kimjongilia.
As impressive as this sounds, the bankrupt country is skimping on celebrations this year in anticipation of next year’s 100th anniversary of founding President Kim Il-Sung’s birth. Citizens were disappointed not to be showered in luxury gifts, as they’ve come to expect from previous birthdays.
(More on TIME.com: The remaking of Kim Jong-Il.)
Despite state media reports that the leader is in the last year of his sixties, records show that he was born one year earlier. If he’s going to go to all the trouble of lying about his age, you’d think he’d shave off at least a decade.
See the performance in the leader’s honor: