18th November

1307 William Tell shoots an apple off his son’s head

 

1928 short Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse’s birthday – find Mickey-Mouse-themed lunch ideas here.

 

2013 MAVEN probe sent to Mars

 

Latvian Independence Day: (from Russia, 1918)

Latvia had important access to the Baltic ports, which meant it tended to be attacked by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and Russia who all wanted it too.

From 1611 it was owned by Sweden, who were generally rather nice as you might expect of Swedes, the main change being that peasants started being educated.

Then it was taken into the Russian Empire, who also took all of its industry into Russia proper, until WWI , when Latvia became independent.

In 1939 Soviet Russia took Latvia into its protection, if it could be called that, replacing civil servants with Soviet Russians and deporting/killing thousands just in case.

In 1940 Latvia became part of the Soviet Union, and during WWII Nazi Germany took bits too. Post-war it was back to Soviet Russia, with all the deportations and repression that entailed.

In 1989-90 the USSR realised it wasn’t welcome and Latvia became independent again.

Latvia’s most popular sport is ice hockey. While they are a Christian country, they have a particular Latvian paganism called Romuva, and its followers are the Dievturiba, the Godskeepers.

You could tell stories from their folklore. They export a great deal of amber so you can talk about how that’s made. They invented the Namejs style of ring, as well as the Lielvarde belt whose symbols are said to explain the cosmos. You could try their sorrel soup.

 

Morocco Fete de l’Independance (Independence Day):

From the 6th century B.C. Phoenicians (Jewish traders in a purple dye from the Murex snail; they spread the use of the alphabet) settled and traded with Morocco.

From the 1st century B.C. it was part of the Roman Empire called Mauretania Tingitana (awesome name).

From the 6th century it was part of Byzantium. Umayyad Muslims from Damascus (in Syria) conquered Morocco; followed by a man named Idris, who formed the Idrisid dynasty and made Morocco a centre of Muslim learning.

Berber dynasties followed, and a bunch that claimed to be descendants from Mohammed, until in 1666 the Alouite dynasty united the country and still rule today.

Weirdly Morocco was the first country ever to recognise the US. From 1860 France and Spain started taking bits, and Moroccans fought for both countries in WWI and WWII, but after France exiled their sultan and replaced him with an unpopular one, Morocco really wanted independence; it gained this in 1956.

Spain left their bit of the Sahara but Algeria and the Polisarios (Spanish settlers) fought Morocco for it.

It’s still not really calmed down but there’s been a ceasefire since 1991. Cook some Moroccan food or make a little fez for a teddy bear. Try Andalusian classical music like Ziryab’s, or chaabi bands.

 

Also today:

  • Battle of Vertièrés Day (Haiti, 1803)
  • Oman National Day
  • Chinita’s Fair (Venezuela)
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