15th January

Makar Sankranti (2017)

This is a Hindu harvest festival in India, and also marks the first day of spring.

The British Museum first opened (1759) – so visit a local  museum

Coca Cola (or the Pemberton Medicine Company) first incorporated 1889 – try baking a cola cake

The rules of basketball first published by its inventor James Naismith 1892 – play basketball;

The first Superbowl is played 1967 so play American football; you just need a cycle helmet, black marks under your eyes and socks for shoulder pads and some basic understanding of the rules (Superbowl party ideas here)

Martin Luther King, Jr born 1929

Korean Alphabet Day – so write your name in Korean

John Chilembwe Day (Malawi – see 6th July)

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14th January

1886 Hugh Lofting born, author of Dr Doolittle

Orthodox New Year

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Gujurat/Jaipur Kite Festival – so go fly a kite!

Pongal is a celebration of the end of the harvest in South India – if the weather is nice out, why not make a Pongal Kolam pattern in flour (rice flour for authenticity) outside your house to show your happiness. The birds and ants will eat the pattern and it will represent your inviting life into your house and living in harmony with all creatures.

Eat sweet pongal, a kind of rice pudding – this is my favourite bit of the festival. Traditionally it is cooked at sunrise,  and the moment the milk boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of “Pongalo Pongal!”, throw in some freshly harvested rice grains in the pot and blow a conch shell. Amazing.

12th January

The National Trust founded 1895, so go visit one of their properties

A long-distance radio signal sent from Eiffel tower 1908make a radio or record your own radio station programme

Little Red Riding Hood, Gustave Doré

Charles Perrault’s birthday (1628), so read fairy stories.

Turkmenistan Remembrance Day – see 19th February

11th January

Kagami biraki day in Japan, where Japanese people can break the kagami mochi placed on the deities’ altar because 11 is a lucky number – make mochi;

First recorded lottery in England 1569 – so play Bingo

William Herschel discovers Uranus moons Titania and Oberon

1935 Amelia Earhart flies solo from Hawaii to California.

Birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos (a Puerto Rican who was very influential in Latin America)

Morocco’s Independence Resistance Day – see 18th November

Albania Republic Day

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You’re never going to guess what the Albanian for Albania is. Shqipëri. You weren’t even close, were you? But they did used to call themselves Arbëri; both names mean ‘Land of Eagles’ (how lovely).

Albania was once part of the Roman Dalmatia and Macedonia. It remained part of the Byzantine Roman Empire until Slavs overran it and then the Bulgarian Empire took it in the 9th century.

The Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania formed in the Middle Ages, founded by Progon, but it was dissolved in 1225.

The Ottomans occupied most of Albania by 1431, bringing Islam and forcing many Christians to flee west. In 1443 a revolt broke out, led by Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, and lasted until 1479.

Skanderbeg became Lord of Albania. As the Ottomans intended to use Albania as a springboard to invade Italy and western Europe, Skanderbeg received aid from western countries.

A group of Muslims calling themselves the League of Prizren or the Committee of the Real Muslims formed in 1878 in the name of protecting Muslim land from invasion, and at first the Ottoman Empire supported them until they started to focus on gaining Albanian independence. They requested merging the vilayets (provinces) of Kosovo, Scutari, Monastir and Ioannina into the Albanian Vilayet.

The league was defeated by the Ottomans, but the Albanian uprising of 1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advancing Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek armies into Albanian territories led to the proclamation of independence in 1912.

Well, the Albanian peasants didn’t like this, thinking it was just a ruse by Christian Europe to oppress them, and the newly appointed prince, William of Wied, fled the country.

However, his monarchy wasn’t abolished until 1925, I suppose because WWI got in the way and confused everything.

Then they tried a republic for three years, then tried another monarchy 1928-39. During this period Albania was really getting along with Italy until they invaded, and during WWII Albania was occupied by Italy then Germany.

Italy also invaded Yugoslavia and redistributed the land so that the Albanian bits went to Albania, like Kosovo. A communist army formed to fight against the Nazi occupation, and after the war Albania became a socialist republic under Enver Hoxha.

Albania became agriculturally self-sufficient (kind of…ok, a lot of people were hungry) as land was given to the farmers who worked on it to own as co-operatives. Almost everyone was educated and literate. Incomes increased more than anywhere in Europe. However, there was no religious freedom because everyone had to be atheist.

The People’s Republic was dissolved around 1991 after protests from 1989, and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communist Party stayed in power somehow after elections, but liberalisation actually made the economy unstable because of Ponzi schemes, etc., and the new Democratic Party took over.

However, an armed rebellion in 1997 made a lot of Albanians emigrate; and when the Kosovo War was happening in Yugoslavia a lot of Kosovo Albanians fled to Albania.

Over a third of Albania is still forest, with lynxes, wolves, bears, boars and chamois. The golden eagle is the country’s national symbol. Nearly 100% of its electricity is made by hydroelectric dams, although recent droughts are ruining that. It exports its own oil and gas.

Tourists can visit a number of national parks and lakes, as well as Gjirokastër, a medieval Ottoman town.

Prithvi Jayanti – Nepal celebrates the birthday of Prithvi Narayan Shah. See 28th May.

7th January

Orthodox Christmas (the churches of Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova still follow the Julian calendar, for some reason)

Cambodia Victory Day – see 9th November

Gallileo discovers Jupiter’s Gallilean moons (1610)

The first transatlantic telephone service from New York to London is established in 1927 – make a telephone.

Nanakusa-no-seku (a festival in which Japanese put their Christmas decorations away and eat 7-herb porridge for good luck – in the UK you could use sage, rosemary, parsley, thyme, winter savory and bay to make a bouquet garni)

Tricolore Day (Italy – so eat a margarita pizza or have mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil salad)

Plough Sunday (2018) – the beginning of the agricultural year: the first Sunday after Epiphany. Decorated ploughs are brought to church to be blessed, and prayers are said to bless the land. Farming starts properly tomorrow on Plough Monday.

29th December

The fifth day of Christmas.

Mongolian Independence Day – see 26th November

Texas founded 1845 (Davy Crocket fighting against the Mexican army in the Battle of Alamo; oil; Austin country music; eat Tex-Mex)

Ireland’s Constitution Day:

Celtic or Iron-Age Ireland was from the 8th century B.C. Ptolemy, an Egyptian who wrote in Greek, called Ireland ‘Little Britain’, and England and Scotland were called ‘Great Britain’.

St Patrick came over with Christianity in 431 A.D. and the druidic system collapsed. The Irish were a bunch of tribes until they established a High King of Ireland, who ruled from the Hill of Tara from the 7th century A.D.

While the Dark Ages hit Europe, Irish monks and scholars continued to learn Greek and Latin and were very good at illuminating manuscripts (like the Book of Kells) and making jewellery.

Then the Vikings came along pillaging and ruined everything. The Normans (who by then were also technically the English) came over in 1169 to invade but Henry II had to come round three years later to sort them out.

After that Ireland successfully ignored England’s rule, which essentially extended only over the ‘Pale’, a bit of land around Dublin. However, Henry VII remembered, and reminded everyone that he was King of Ireland and invaded.

Tyrone’s Rebellion, or the Nine Years’ War, saw the Irish chieftains fight against him before fleeing to Europe. After that the English invaded more, took their land and even sent a lot into slavery in the West Indies! No wonder they hate us!

England then enforced laws that didn’t allow Roman Catholics any rights at all, so only those that followed the Church of England could, e.g., inherit property or sit in Parliament, etc.

In 1739-41 there was a horrible frost that ruined crops across Europe and caused a terrible famine in Ireland.

From 1798 Ireland was allowed to make its own laws, but when Ireland tried to have a proper rebellion the English military squashed it and from 1801 declared Ireland part of ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’. Catchy.

In the 1840s the Great Famine was caused by a potato disease because so many Irish ate almost only potatoes. 1 million died and another 1 million emigrated. Ireland’s population is still less than it was before this famine.

From then some Irish campaigned for ‘Home Rule’, where Ireland would be allowed to rule itself while remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Ulster Unionists (who were in favour of the Act of Union that made Ireland part of the United Kingdom) were against this because they were Protestant and thought Home Rule would be dominated by the Catholics. England thought it had reached a compromise by allowing most of Ireland Home Rule except for Ulster, Northern Ireland.

While England was busy in World War I, the  Easter Rising was another rebellion trying to get England to give up Ireland. England responded by executing 15 leaders and imprisoning more than 1,000 people. This did not help our popularity. We then tried to impose conscription.

After that, the Sinn Fein (Gaelic for ‘we ourselves’) left-wing independent party had overwhelming support from the Irish and declared Ireland to be an independent republic. Their army, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), fought against Britain for three years in a guerrilla war called the Irish War of Independence (1919-21).

England then allowed Ireland independence but offered Northern Ireland the chance to opt out and remain part of the UK, which they accepted.

The Irish Republic became the Irish Free State… and then dissolved into civil war for a while, mainly out of opposition to the Anglo-Irish treaty which arranged all this but still wanted Irish people to swear allegiance to the English king.

For a while Ireland was doing really well but the 2008-10 global recession left it pretty miserable.

Northern Ireland, of course, has been divided by Roman Catholics wanting to join the rest of Ireland in independence and Protestants wanting to stay in the UK.

The Protestants vote for the Ulster Unionist Party, who did something called ‘gerrymandering’, which is where you move the boundaries of electoral districts so you get a greater majority of the votes.

From 1969 the Troubles began, where both sides were very violent to each other, and Britain removed Northern Ireland’s right to Home Rule, which surely annoyed everyone even more.

The old Irish Republican Army, which wanted non-violent civil demonstrations for Catholic rights and against British rule, split into a new group, the Provisional IRA, who were super-violent. However, they were reacting to a violent time, and the Protestants were just as violent.

The British army also behaved appallingly, picking on the Catholics more than the equally naughty Protestants and torturing and detaining them without trial. On Bloody Sunday in 1972 the British army shot dead 26 people who were conducting a peaceful unarmed protest.

In the 1980s and ’90s the IRA blew up some very big bombs in Brighton, London and Manchester.

In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement ended the fighting, restored Home Rule to Northern Ireland and the British army stopped having to support Northern Ireland’s police. This was back in the good old days of Labour before Tony Blair became a war criminal.

Ireland has amazing myths, legends and landscapes.

Newgrange was thought to be the abode of the Tuatha de Danaan, which were a kind of fairy (but very tall and powerful) – we now know it is an incredible work by Neolithic people before Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids were thought of.

The Giant’s Causeway was said to be built by Finn MacCool (great name) who built a causeway to Scotland, but a giant ripped it up so that Finn could not chase him.

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Blarney Castle holds the Blarney Stone, which if you kiss gives you the gift of eloquence and is also said to be the Lia Fail stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

Older children might like to have a go at colouring in some Celtic knotwork or illuminating a letter or a poem for someone’s birthday. Read a children’s version of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Try some Riverdance, Gaelic football or hurling.

Incwala Ceremony (Swaziland, 2015)