19th August

1939 the first Soap-Box Derby (car-racing using cars made of soap boxes): so build a go-kart or buy a kit or build one for a doll,

1883 Coco Chanel born: so make perfume

National Aviation Day (after Orville Wright’s birthday, US) – so make paper aeroplanes!

I also love these plane catapults:

Afghanistan Independence Day:

Afghanistan had one of the world’s earliest farming communities, from 50,000 years ago. From 3,000 B.C. it began to have urban civilisation; from 2,000 B.C. Central Asian semi-nomadic people came across.

Zoroastrianism was born here (a religion in which all good and creation comes from the god Ahura Mazda, with evil forces or druj opposing him).

Alexander the Great conquered the area, and his succeeding Seleucid Empire gave it to the Indian Mauryan Empire in an alliance treaty. This brought Buddhism.

Then a whole bunch of other empires fought over and ruled the area. During the Islamic Golden Age Afghanistan was one of the main centres of Islam; but then Genghis Khan caused such devastation that many people reverted to rural society.

Later a man named Mir Wais Hotak overthrew the Persians and Khan’s descendants. His son, Mahmud, sacked the capital of Persia and declared himself king, but the Persians weren’t impressed and the dynasty was ousted.

In 1738 Iranian Nader Shah invaded, and a 16-year-old, Ahmad Shah Durrani, led an Afghan army to conquer India, Pakistan and parts of Iran.

But the Persians and Sikhs kept coming back to invade and take bits, and 21 Khan brothers divided up the rest of the Afghan empire once the leader Fateh Khan died.

Then the Brits came in the Great Game, vying with Russia to own Central Asia. We never conquered Afghanistan but we helped Abdur Rahman Khan to power and then stuck our nose in all the politics until they gained independence from us in 1910.

From 1919 King Amanullah Khan started to modernise the country, with better international relations, education for all, no slavery, etc. But he also dared to abolish the burqa and set up mixed-sex schools, so rebels made him abdicate.

Afghanistan wasn’t involved in WWII and didn’t take sides in the Cold War, so, like the child of divorced parents got spoilt by both Russia and America who competed to help build infrastructure there.

But from 1978 a Communist party seized power, leading to civil war with America funding the guerrilla forces, while the Soviets accidentally got involved in government and fighting most of the civil war until 1989. After they pulled out, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran got involved.

In 1994 the Islamic State government finally got control, stopped the fighting and introduced democracy (although the Taliban said no, they don’t believe in democracy).

The next year the Taliban began shelling civilians, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s support. They managed to take Kabul and then destroyed women’s rights.

From 1996 the al-Quaeda, headed by Bin Laden, joined up with Taliban and Pakistan forces to fight Massoud. Massoud was killed in a suicide attack two days before the al-Quaeda attacked the World Trade Centre in 2001, and Bin Laden took full responsibility for it.

By December the Taliban government was toppled. Since then coalition forces have tried to rebuild Afghan infrastructure.

Nag Panchami (2015): Brahma, Hindu god of creation, had four wives. The first gave birth to devas (gods), the second to garudas (bird-like creatures), the third to nagas (cobra-like gods), and the fourth daityas (giants). In this festival Hindus worship the nagas. Married women and girls go out to ant hills, said to be cobras’ homes, and pray to the Snake God for their family’s wellbeing. They make an offering of milk, sometimes with wood apple leaves, honey, white flowers and saffron. Some milk is brought home for the family as a blessing. Sisters dip a flower in the milk, put it on their brother’s back, light a candle and give him a present. This is a good day to learn about cobras.

Luxembourg City Kermesse/Schueberfouer  (2016: a big 20-day funfair celebrating Luxembourg’s patron saint’s day)

World Photo Day – so let the kids play with a camera and choose their favourite shots for prints.


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