15th December

1970 Soviet Venera lands on Venus

Alderney Homecoming [of WII evacuees] Day

Netherlands Kingdom Day


The Netherlands’ unofficial name is Holland, although that’s actually only the name of two of its counties, but those counties were so famous in the 17th century that their name is more widely known. The people are the Dutch. It’s ridiculous.

250,000 years ago Neanderthals arrived in the higher-up parts of the Netherlands. The oldest canoe ever found came from Mesolithic tribes here in 8,000 A.D.

Around 650 B.C. Germanic tribes arrived from the North. Some of these would become early Saxons, Franks and Celts.

Part of the area was conquered by Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars around 57 B.C. After the Romans left, the southern Netherlands became the Frankish Kingdom ruled by Clovis I. The people spoke Old Frankish, which eventually became Dutch, while the language of the Franks living to the north became French.


Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisii moved into land that was previously abandoned. Some moved into England and became the Anglo-Saxons. About 500,00 people still speak Frisian in this area – it’s the closest language to English…. particularly the English spoken in Great Yarmouth (not even a joke!).

The Frankish Carolingian (i.e., ruled by Charles the Great and his increasingly not-as-good heirs, up to Charles the Fat) Empire ruled most of Western Europe, and when it split the Netherlands was in Middle Francia. This was quite weak and was always being reshaped or being invaded by Vikings.

Around 1100 tradesmen and farmers began draining Holland’s swampy marshes and turned it into a place of power. In the 15th century Amsterdam became the main trading place for grain in Europe.

Charles V united the Netherlands, Belgium and bits of France and Germany into his land along with the whole of Spain. This led to the Eighty Years’ War as they all tried to get their independence again. In 1579 in the Union of Utrecht the northern half of the Netherlands swore to join together against France. Elizabeth I sent a British army to help.

After regaining their independence they formed a confederation of states, and in the 17th century the Dutch Empire became one of the world’s major powers. They settled New York (which they called New Amsterdam) in 1614.

The Netherlands became the first capitalist country in the world, with the first full-time stock exchange, inventing insurance and retirement funds and the world’s first economic bubble when everyone went mad for tulips, and the world’s first ‘bear raider’, a trader who made everyone lower their prices by dumping his own stock, then buying everyone else’s at the new discount.

After France’s revolution, the Netherlands had its own and declared itself the Batavian Republic – its ruler, William V of Orange, fled to England.

(to be continued ….)

It’s famous for tulips, windmills, clogs, Delft Blue pottery, canals, the Dutch Masters, bicycles and the ice-skating tour. Find out more here.

Zamenhof Day (creator of Esperanto)

Bonaire Kingdom Day


14th December

1911 Roald Amundse first to reach South Pole – we like to throw white sheets over the living room and pretend we’re on a trek to the South Pole. Get all the cuddly penguin toys out! THIS IS THE BEST ARCTIC LUNCH I HAVE EVER SEEN!

1920 Rosemary Sutcliff born – famous for The Eagle of the Ninth series.

2004 Millau Viaduct, world’s tallest bridge, opens

Monkey Day – this is our favourite book for learning about primates (and counting!).

Alabama Day: founded 1819: famous for Peanut butter; Rosa Parks; space rockets.

13th December

Malta Republic Day

Malta has been settled since 5.200 B.C. – as soon as humans arrived, all the dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants died out. Coincidence? The megalithic Ġgantija temples are among the oldest free-standing structures in the world.


The builders left cart tracks in the sandstone in an area now called ‘Clapham Junction’.


After 2,500 B.C. the humans died out again, until some Bronze Age settlers came from Sicily. Phoenicians and Romans followed.

After 332 B.C. Malta became part of the Carthaginian civilisation, based in the town Carthage in Tunisia. Rome fought with Carthage over Malta in the Punic Wars.

In 58 A.D. Paul the Apostle and Luke the Evangelist were washed up on its shores after a shipwreck.

After the fall of the Roman Empire Malta was invaded a lot, and became part of the Byzantine Empire, adding Greeks to its population.

In 870 A.D. Muslim invasions left the island ravaged and nearly empty until it was recolonised by Sicilian Muslins in 1048-9. They introduced the Siculo-Arabic language that became the Maltese language.

The Normans captured Malta and Sicily in 1091, and it became Catholic again.

It then became part of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire for 1194, but its economy and trade were ruined as it essentially just became a little island fort. Arabs and Muslims were expelled.

Malta was then ruled by the Spanish until 1409. King Charles V gave Malta to an order of Knights Hospitallier who had been kicked out of the Ottoman Empire – they became the Knights of Malta and had to pay an annual Tribute of the Maltese Falcon.

In 1551 the whole population of the island of Gozo was taken as slaves by Barbary pirates. The Maltese knights withstood an Ottoman siege in 1565 and then fortified Malta even more.

In 1798 Napoleon captured Malta on his way to take Egypt. But his soldiers raided the churches after he left, so the people rebelled and Britain sent its navy to help boot the French out. It then became a British Dominion.

In 1919 British forces fired on a crowd protesting taxes, killing four men – this is still commemorated as Sette Giugno.

During WWII Malta was very close to the Axis shipping lanes and the whole country was awarded a George Cross for bravery – which now appears on its flag.


On 21 September 1964 Malta gained independence, and became a Republic on 13 December 1974.

St Lucia National Day

St Lucia Day (northern countries and Italy)

6th December

St Nicholas Day

2006 water found on Mars




Johann Christian Bach born 1642 – famous for the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor

Finland’s Independence Day



Finland was first settled about 8,500 years ago as the Ice Age receded.

Swedish kings took over in the 12th century in the Northern Crusades. By the 17th century, Swedish was the language of the aristocrats and Finnish was the language of the peasants.

Russia invaded twice in the 18th century, which Finns call the Greater Wrath and the Lesser Wrath. During the Greater Wrath nearly a whole generation of Finnish men was lost as Russia destroyed homes, farms and set fire to Helsinki. From 1809-1917 Finland was part of the Russian Empire.

In 1835 the Kalevala was published, and the Finnish language gained equal status to Swedish in 1892.

After the February Revolution in Russia in 1917 deposed the tsar, Finland was a bit confused as to who was now in charge of it. As Russia was taken over by Communists, Finland declared itself independent. However, they then fell into civil war between the Whites (right-wing) and the Reds (left). The Whites won and tens of thousands of reds were put in internment camps or executed. In 1919 Finland became a presidential republic.

During WWII Finland fought Russia in the Winter War of 1939-40, and then again after Finland allied with Germany against Russia. Then in 1944 Finland signed an armistice with Russia and then fought against Germany, who were retreating from Russia in northern Finland.

Finland lost 10% of its land and 20% of its industry in the treaties with Russia that followed.

In the 1990s, after Soviet Russia’s collapse, Finland’s main trading partner, it had a bad recession. Finland is one of the world’s oldest countries, with half of voters aged over 50.

Its national animal is the brown bear. It also has wolverines, wolves and elk. It has warm summers but is covered in snow from November to April. At Finland’s northernmost point, the sun never sets for 73 days of summer, and never rises for 51 days of winter.

ST NICHOLAS LIVES HERE! IN LAPLAND! Coincidence that their independence day is on St Nicholas’ Day?



Spain Constitution Day:

Spain was originally populated by Iberians, Basques and Celts; from 210 B.C. it became part of the Roman Empire. But when the Germanic Vandals and Suevi along with Iranian Alans (imagine a whole tribe of Alans! Terrifying.) were driven into Spain by the (also Germanic) Visigoths, the western Roman empire began to disintegrate. [V]Andalusia is named after the Vandals.

In the 8th century Muslim North African Moorish conquered most of Spain. Their capital, Cordoba, was the wealthiest and most advanced city in Western Europe.

The Reconquiesta was the Christian conquering of Muslim Iberia. During this time a kingdom called the Crown of Aragon flourished, ruling from the east of Spain across to Italy, and later joined with the Crown of Castile and then pushed the Muslim rulers out. Everyone was going to get along, honest, until the Spanish Inquisition told the Jews to convert to Catholicism or be expelled – then the Muslims too.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus found the New World on Spain’s behalf and Spain emerged as the first world power, leading Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries and owning bits of everywhere, like Belgium, France, Germany, Africa, the Americas, Italy, the Netherlands, etc., did.

But the Spanish Hapsburg rulers of this empire, Charles I and Philip II, imposed harsh Roman Catholic rules on their lands and the Protestant Reformation against this caused revolts and wars and dragged the empire down. In particular it lost its bits of France, the Netherlands and Portugal.

The Thirty Years’ War, which involved most of Europe mostly fighting over who should be Catholic and who should be Protestant, ruined Spain further.

In the end, the civil war called the War of Spanish Secession put a French king on the throne, the Bourbon Philip V, uniting the remaining bits of Spain into a single state. It was no longer the top power in Europe.

After France overthrew its monarchy, Spain declared war on them… and lost.

Napoleon persuaded Spain to join him in a declaration of war against Portugal and Britain. Then he took his army ‘through’ Spain to ‘invade’ Portugal…and conquered Spain on the way. Embarrasing.

Spain started a war of independence against France, and with Britain’s help and also with Napoleon greedily over-stretching himself with a war against Russia, France was booted out of Spain.

Spain was left poor and unstable, so most of the Spanish Americas took the opportunity to declare their independence from Spain.

In the 20th century Spain managed to colonise some bits of Africa – the Western Sahara, Morocco, Equitorial Guinea, but lost its monarchy and became a republic, which allowed the separate regions of Spain to have autonomy.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-9) was won by the facist Nazi-supporting side under Franco.

Russia, America and Mexico had tried to help but Britain officially wasn’t bothered. Thanks to Franco likewise not being bothered about Britain or Nazis, Spain managed to keep out of World War II and so later wasn’t allowed in the UN, but gained American support as Franco was anti-Communist.

For some reason, even though Spain was a republic, Franco had passed a law that let him choose his successor who would also be king. But King Juan Carlos I (who is still king today) very kindly allowed a democratic parliament to run the country with him.

Spain is famous for: Altamira cave paintings; Spanish Inquisition; Spanish Miracle; Don Quixote; Gaudi; Dali; Picasso; flamenco; Spanish guitar; paella; gazpacho; arroz negro (made with squid ink!); Castilian soup (ham and garlic); bull fighting; La Tomatina (a tomato fight involving like 90,000 people); tapas; siestas; Spanish Tortilla; Guggenheim Museum; El Carnaval de Cádiz; Las Fallas; La Feria de Abril in Seville; Las Fiestas de San Fermín in Pamplona; La Feria de Malaga; La Virgen del Carmen, patroness of fishermen, with celebrations in all coastal towns on July 16th; saffron; mazapan; turron.

3rd December


1927 first Laurel and Hardy, Putting Pants on Philip. Here’s their top five films.

1973 Pioneer returns the first close-ups of Jupiter

Illinois founded (1818) – the first state to abolish slavery, invent the ice cream sundae and have electric street lighting throughout an entire city. Well done there, Illinois. (You can definitely eat ice cream sundaes and why not light up a dolls house using Christmas tree lights?

Ghana Farmers Day: On this day the best farmers in Ghana win amazing prizes (like a three-bedroomed house) to help promote and support farming in the country. Make a farm! You’ll need different enclosures; a cow for milking; a sheep for wool and a sheepdog to round them up; pigs for meat; chickens for eggs; maybe some hives for honey; and a farmer and farmer’s wife of course. There’s a cute one here made of recycling waste.

Saba National Day:

Saba is mainly a volcano, owned by the Netherlands since 1816.  It used to be a good place to hide if you were a Jamaican pirate – so play pirates. Or build a volcano out of baking soda or diet coke and mentos. Or make a fish mobile (maybe cut out fish like these), stick a straw in your mouth for a snorkel, and go scuba diving.

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


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