21st December

Forefathers DayMayflower lands in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1620

1872-6 HMS Challenger expedition sets off from Portsmouth, discovering many new things about the ocean

Winter Solstice (2016, the shortest day of the year – this is the first day of winter.

São Tomé Day

São Tomé and Príncipe were uninhabited when they were discovered by the Portuguese around 1470.


São Tomé is named after St Thomas (today is St Thomas’s Day) and Principe was originally called Santo Antão (after St Antony) but in 1502 it changed its name to Ilha do Príncipe after the Portuguese prince to whom sugar taxes were paid.

The Portuguese imported slaves to grow the sugar and by the mid-16th century it was the world’s main exporter of sugar. But then other countries’ colonies exported even more sugar, and the slaves became difficult to manage.

They introduced coffee and cocoa crops, and abolished slavery in 1876, but while the workers were paid they were still kept against their will in terrible working conditions, so it didn’t change much.

In 1953 the Portuguese landowners turned violent against the Creoles in the Batepá massacre. São Tomé and Príncipe achieved independence on 12 July 1975. In 1991 they had free democratic elections. They had one military coup for a week in July 2003 but otherwise have remained one of Africa’s most stable and democratic countries.

Pancha Ganapati

Pancha Ganapati is a 5-day festival in honour of Ganesh (21st: family build and decorate shrine with Ganesh dressed in golden yellow, then work on family relationships; 22nd Ganesh dressed in royal blue and Hindus repair their relationships with neighbours and friends; 23rd, ruby red, for colleagues and customers; 24th emerald green, the family shares their artistic talents with each other; 25th family reflect on the love and harmony created thanks to Ganesh. Gifts put on the shrine every day til now are opened.)

Yalda: (Iran, 2016) an evening of staying in with family to avoid evil. The next day is joyous.



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