2nd December

1859 George Seurat born – so try pointillist paintings

UAE National Day

Hot Air Balloon Festival, Karnataka: For this we were able to buy one of those Chinese lanterns for £1 in our local cheap-stuff shop, but there are a lot of good websites on how to make your own if you’re feeling experimental.

Laos National Day:

Laos began as the Kingdom of a Million Elephants – Lan Xang, what a great name – in the 14th century, when the prince Fa Ngum took over the Vientane (now the capital) with some Khmer (Cambodian) warriors.

In 1548,  King Setthathirat had the That Luang built, a gold-covered Buddhist stupa that is now the national symbol of Laos.

The site had been a temple site since the 3rd century to house the breast bone of Buddha.

In the 1760s,  Burma and Siam annexed bits of Laos so it was divided into three.

In the late 19th century, France protected Laos from a Chinese army of bandits, the Black Flag Army, and in return Laos became part of French Indochina. France rebuilt That Luang from a French explorer’s detailed drawings, as it had been destroyed by an earlier Thai invasion.

In World War II the Japanese popped in for an occupation, but the French booted them back out.

From 1953 Laos was independent, but almost immediately America offered to fund the Royalist army against the Laos Communist movement, Pathet Lao. Obviously this sparked a civil war, which ended in the Communists winning.

Laos was also bombed and invaded by the US and US-supported South Vietnamese when North Vietnam invaded and occupied it during the Vietnam War. In 1964-73, the US dropped some 250 million bombs on Laos trying to get North Vietnam out of it, with 80 million bombs not exploding and leaving Laos a minefield (well done there America). This is more bombs than were dropped on the whole world during World War II, so well done there as well America.

From 1975 Laos became a socialist republic, controlled by Vietnam and supported by Russia. A lasting problem of the Vietnam War, aside from all the unexploded bombs, is Laos’s treatment of the Hmong people, who fought on behalf of the Royalists (i.e., against the Communists) and therefore the Laos socialist government felt they should all be hunted out and killed, just in case.

The Hmongs mainly fled to Thailand, but when America and the UN persuaded Laos to take them back, the Hmongs said, no thanks. So then the US said they’d take 15,000 (they feel a bit responsible for them seeing as they were kind of fighting on the American side). So that only left something like 185,000 in Thailand, either hiding in monasteries or held in deportation centres.

George Bush then amazingly stopped any more Hmongs from moving to America because they had been involved in armed conflict (even though they’d been fighting for the Americans – have I mentioned that?). Thailand continues to force the Hmongs back to Laos, where they claim they are attacked by the army. Not really a happy ending yet.

Here are 10 facts about Laos.

1st December

IIIIITTTTT’S AAAAADDDVEEEENNNNTTTTT

I love these DIY Lego advent calendars. This little advent village of candy-box houses is cute too. This little advent tree has clues to where treats are hidden around the house. You can also put slips of paper with Christmas activities written on them, like:

  1. Write Santa a letter
  2. Visit Santa
  3. Dance to Christmas songs
  4. Make Christmas cookies and bring them to a relative’s house
  5. Make playdough Christmas trees
  6. Watch a Christmas film like Polar Express, the Snowman, Muppets Christmas Carol, the Grinch, Nativity, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, etc.
  7. Make playdough snowmen
  8. Get ready for bed earlyish, but on the pillow there’s a ticket to see Christmas lights. Then you all lump in the car in pyjamas.
  9. Make gingerbread houses or gingerbread nativity.
  10. Get the Christmas decorations out!
  11. Make cranberry-popcorn garlands for an outdoor Christmas tree for the birds.
  12. Make Christmas cards
  13. Take a Christmas photo
  14. Design paper snowflakes or snowflake ballerinas.
  15. Make Christmas presents for the relatives
  16. Make fake snow out of white bread crumbs, cornflour, ground rice, Epsom salts, glitter, magic snow, polystyrene balls, etc.
  17. Christmas science labs (ideas here and here)
  18. Play with a nativity set
  19. Make Christmas crackers
  20. Make the whole house smell of Christmas – put slices of orange, cranberry, evergreen twigs, cinnamon, nutmeg in a pan of water and boil it.
  21. Play Christmas minute-to-win-it games.
  22. Tell Christmas jokes.
  23. See a panto.
  24. Track Santa (Google also does a good one).

Also today:

  • 1885 Dr Pepper first served
  • 1895 Henry Williamson born, author of Tarka the Otter (age 9-11)
  • 1913 Ford uses first moving assembly line
  • Rosa Parks Day: 1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat
  • 1990 the two entrances of the Channel Tunnel meet 40m below seabed
  • 1761 Marie Tussaud born – so make playdough sculptures of each other
  • Central African Republic National Day
  • Chad Day of Liberty and Democracy
  • Portugal Restoration of Independence Day

30th November

3340 BC earliest recorded eclipse

1667 Jonathan Swift born (author of Gulliver’s Travels)

1835 Mark Twain born, author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

1872 first international football match (England v Scotland) – so play football

1874 Lucy Maud Montgomery born, author of Anne of Green Gables

1934 The Flying Scotsman reaches 100mph – so play trains

1982 Thriller album debuts – kids love it

Barbados Independence (from UK, 1966)

barbados_world

Amerindians came to Barbados from the 4th century. The Kalinago (indigenous Carribeans) came in the 14th century. When the Spanish and the Portguese came over in the 16th/17th centuries, the natives fled. A few Arawaks came over from British Guiana in the 1800s.

The British took over in 1627-8 and the population became mainly white. There wasn’t even many African slaves because a lot of work was ‘indentured labour’, when people paid for their passage to the New World by working for an employer there.

Barbados gained independence in 1966, keeping our Queen as head of state. About a third of the population emigrated to Britain in 1946-80,

Barbados’s national sport is cricket, music is calypso and soja.

 

Benin National Day – see 10th January

St Andrews Day (Scotland)

The first hunter-gatherers arrived 12,800 years ago, after the Ice Age retreated enough. There is a Neolithic village called Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands. Bronze Age Scots were called Picts/Caledonians.

skara_brae_kap_06_hires_c2a9kb

https://digitaldirtvirtualpasts.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/online-exhibition-digital-dwelling-at-skara-brae/

The Roman Empire took England and Wales as Britannia, but the Caledonians remained their enemies. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out, although sometimes they moved as far in as the Antonine Wall (a less well-known wall in the centre of Scotland).

hadrians_wall_at_greenhead_lough

In the 6th century the Kingdom of the Picts became established, later known as Alba. By the 13th century the Picts had taken over most of modern Scotland. Their king David I brought in the Davidian Revolution: feudalism, towns called burghs, and an influx of English and French speaking knights that eventually made English fashionable rather than Gaelic or Norse.

In 1286 Alexander I died with no heir, and the English Edward I had to decide who should be the next king. He made John Balliol king but also made himself Lord Paramount of Scotland. When the Scots refused to help Edward fight France (instead actually negotiating the Auld Alliance with them instead), Edward deposed John and declared himself king of Scotland. This started the Wars of Independence (1296-1328) with William Wallace the most famous leader of the resistance.

Robert the Bruce was crowned king in 1306, and victory at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) got him control over Scotland again. His brother, Edward Bruce, briefly invaded Ireland and became its king to try and strengthen Scotland’s position against England, but it didn’t take. In 1320 the world’s first documented declaration of independence, the Arbroath Declaration, should have finished it, but we carried on fighting.

in 1502 James IV of Scotland signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Henry VII and married his daughter, so it seemed like we were getting along. But then James agreed to go to war with England with France because of their Auld Alliance. He was the last British monarch to die in battle, at the Battle of Flodden. The Auld Alliance was ended.

Scotland then had a Protestant revolution and booted out Mary, Queen of Scots, formerly queen of France. Her 1-year-old son James became King James VI. Then England’s Elizabeth I, Mary’s cousin, died without heir and James VI also became James I of England and Ireland. His son, James VII, was overthrown and replaced by William and Mary, and was the last Roman Catholic to rule Britain.

In 1707 the Treaty of Union made Scotland part of the United Kingdom. In 1998 it got its own Parliament again.

St Andrew is said to have been martyred on an x-shaped cross, or saltire, hence Scotland’s flag. Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn!

South Yemen Independence Day (from UK, 1967)

29th November

1972 Atari release video game Pong

1898 C.S. Lewis born – read the Narnia books. Readalouddad recommends this version. They’re probably good to read from age 8.

Yugoslavia Republic Day (no longer observed because it doesn’t exist!)

Yugoslavia means Southern Slavs; it was founded in 1918 after WWI. At first it was called the Kingdom of Slavs, Croats and Slovenes but nobody really bothered calling it that – we called it the Versailles State as that was the treaty which founded it.

The prince regent of Serbia became king of Yugoslavia, King Alexander I. There was a shoot-out in his parliament in 1928; to help pull everyone together he suspended parliament, renamed the country Yugoslavia and redid the constitution. He resigned as dictator in 1931 and was assassinated three years later.

Supported by Italy and Germany, the Croats’ part of Yugoslavia declared itself ‘Croatia’.

In 1941 German, Italian and Hungarian forces invaded Yugoslavia. They split it up into Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia.

The resistance was divided between pro-royalist, pro-Serb Chetniks and pan-Yugoslav Partisans led by Joseph Broz Tito. Of course, the problem with two resistance groups is that they wasted a lot of time fighting each other, and the Chetniks actually ended up being supported by the Axis Powers. Tsk.

The Partisans because the greatest guerilla resistance in occupied Western/Central Europe, and freed Yugoslavia by 1945.Tito became the head of Yugoslavia as an independent communist state.

When Tito died in 1980, all the different ethic groups wanted their own country. In 1990 the all-Yugoslav Communist party was dissolved and the republics of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina eventually emerged, after obviously lots of horrendous fighting, especially Kosovo. Serbia and Montenegro wanted to stay together as Yugoslavia, and weren’t officially named Serbia and Montenegro until 2003.

Also today:

  • President Tubmans Birthday (longest-serving Liberian president) – see 26th July
  • Vanuatu Unity Day – see 5th March

28th November

1811 Beethoven’s Op.73 premiers

1909 Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 premiers

1757 William Blake born

Albanian Independence (from Turkey, 1912) – see 11th January

Burundi Republic Day – see 1st July

Chad Proclamation of the Republic – see 11th August

Mauritania Independence Day (from France, 1960)

Panama Independence Day (from Spain, 1821)

26th November

1922 Howard Carter enters Tutankhamun’s tomb – there’s a Horrible Histories video here and a National Geographic one here. Tutenkhamun is famous because he became king aged 9, but died aged 18, which wasn’t enough time to build a pyramid. He was buried in a fairly small tomb instead, which was overlooked by robbers, so it was still full of treasure when Carter found it. There’s a great illustration of the tomb here.

Mongolia Independence Day

The most famous Mongol is Ghengis Khan (meaning Universal King; his real name was Temujin), who united warring tribes and created Mongolia in 1206. The Mongol Empire soon stretched as far as Central Europe.

In the 17th century Mongolia lost its independence and was ruled by Manchurians. From 1911 Russia helped Mongolia free itself from China. In 1924 it became the second socialist republic after the USSR.

They drink suutei tsai, a salty tea that is mostly milk and a bit of rancid butter.