26th June

1284 Pied Piper leads the children away in Hamelin (no, seriously, it really happened …)

Azerbaijan Army and Navy Day: Some kids might like to play at being soldiers and sailors today.

Madagascar Independence Day:

Madagascar used to be part of the supercontinent Gondwana, but split from India around 88 million years ago – now 90% of its wildlife doesn’t exist anywhere else, most famously lemurs but also the cat-like fossa and the world’s smallest chameleon.

The first humans to arrive did a good old-fashioned slash-and-burn on the ancient rainforests and killed off its largest animals, including the elephant bird, the giant lemur and the Malagasy hippo.

Madagascar got its name because Marco Polo not only got his place of arrival wrong (thinking it was the Somali port of Mogadishu) but then forgot how to spell that as well.

The French invaded in 1883 and they got independence on 26 June 1960.

Though half the population are Christian, nearly all practise folk beliefs that emphasise the connections with ancestors – and they hold big famadihana parties where they exhume a dead relative to give them a shiny new shroud. Cattle rustling is a rite of passage for young men, when farmers throw spears to get rid of the naughty lads.

Madagascar invented the board game Fanorona (basically, every time you move a piece, all the opponent’s pieces next to that point and along the line of that move are captured).

Of course, you can always celebrate by watching Madagascar.

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