26th November

1922 Howard Carter enters Tutankhamun’s tomb – there’s a Horrible Histories video here and a National Geographic one here. Tutenkhamun is famous because he became king aged 9, but died aged 18, which wasn’t enough time to build a pyramid. He was buried in a fairly small tomb instead, which was overlooked by robbers, so it was still full of treasure when Carter found it. There’s a great illustration of the tomb here.

Mongolia Independence Day

The most famous Mongol is Ghengis Khan (meaning Universal King; his real name was Temujin), who united warring tribes and created Mongolia in 1206. The Mongol Empire soon stretched as far as Central Europe.

In the 17th century Mongolia lost its independence and was ruled by Manchurians. From 1911 Russia helped Mongolia free itself from China. In 1924 it became the second socialist republic after the USSR.

They drink suutei tsai, a salty tea that is mostly milk and a bit of rancid butter.

26th October

1685 Domenico Scarlatti born

1863 the Football Association formed in London

1936 Hoover Dam’s first electric generator starts

Austrian National Day

Oesterreich, as Germans call Austria, means Eastern Realm. It was a Celtic country until it was conquered by the Romans, then invaded by Bavarians, Slavs and Avars (Turks).

Charlemagne, King of the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire, conquered the area in 788 A.D. and introduced Christianity. It became a duchy and then was taken over by the Hapsburgs, rulers of Germany, from 1278 to WWI.

Austria occasionally had scuffles with the Ottoman Empire as they both encroached on Hungary. In 1699 Austria actually took over all of Hungary.

In 1815 Austria helped defeat Napoleonic France and emerged as one of the great European powers.

Germany was trying to become a unified country rather than a load of principalities. Austria could be part of it, but it didn’t really want to be – it wanted to be its own empire. Austria helped Prussia fight against Denmark to take Schleswig and Holstein from it, but then as Prussia and Austria couldn’t agree on who should then rule Schleswig and Holstein, Prussia and Austria had a war against each other. Austria lost and then definitely couldn’t be part of Germany.

Franz Joseph I

In 1867 Hungary and Austria agreed to go their separate ways, although they shared the king, Franz Joseph I.

Austria-Hungary included Croats, Czechs, Poles, Rusyns, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Ukrainians, Italians and Romanians, and they were all allowed to be educated in their own language and use their own languages in official settings, which was nice.

In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Ottoman Empire, causing the Bosnian Crisis. In 1914 a Bosnian Serb shot the Archduke of Austria-Hungary and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, and Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, whereupon all the other countries said “Oh no you don’t!” and “Oh yes I will” and WWI started.

(…to be continued)

Famous Austrian composers include Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss.

Musikverein in Austria.

Since 1939, the famous Vienna New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic is broadcast from its Golden Hall to an audience of one billion in 44 countries.

Every year the Opera Ball sees everyone do a Viennese waltz.

Their folk music is called Schrammelmusik and their folk dances include the Schuhplattler.

It has big castles and palaces like the Schoenbrunn:

or the Belvedere:

Make a Sachertorte or an apple strudel or a Salzburger nockerl.

Nauru Angam Day (Nauruans celebrate having a population of more than 1,500) – see 17th May.

26th September

1898 George Gershwin born – famous for ‘Rhapsody in Blue‘, ‘I Got Rhythm‘, ‘Fascinating Rhythm‘, ‘Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off‘, ‘They All Laughed‘, and ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me‘.

New Zealand Dominion Day – famous for its indigenous Maoris, and their haka war dance at rugby games. It was the first place in the world to grant women the vote. There are about ten times more sheep than humans in New Zealand! It’s so anti-nuclear that nuclear-powered ships can not land in their harbours.

European Day of Languages – here’s some Language Facts and Fun.

Also today:

26th July

1882 premier of Wagner’s Parsifal – here are some kids’ facts about Wagner

1951 Disney’s Alice in Wonderland premiers

Liberia Independence Day (1847 from America; weirdly this is a country populated by US slaves)

Maldives Independence Day (from UK, 1965). The lowest country in the world, and in danger from rising sea levels. It is a Muslim country, with laws against alcohol and eating pork, but these don’t apply to the tourist resorts.

Kargil Victory Day (India over Pakistan, 1999. Even though both had nuclear weapons, they used regular old warfare.)

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.