29th December

The fifth day of Christmas.

Mongolian Independence Day – see 26th November

Texas founded 1845 (Davy Crocket fighting against the Mexican army in the Battle of Alamo; oil; Austin country music; eat Tex-Mex)

Ireland’s Constitution Day:

Celtic or Iron-Age Ireland was from the 8th century B.C. Ptolemy, an Egyptian who wrote in Greek, called Ireland ‘Little Britain’, and England and Scotland were called ‘Great Britain’.

St Patrick came over with Christianity in 431 A.D. and the druidic system collapsed. The Irish were a bunch of tribes until they established a High King of Ireland, who ruled from the Hill of Tara from the 7th century A.D.

While the Dark Ages hit Europe, Irish monks and scholars continued to learn Greek and Latin and were very good at illuminating manuscripts (like the Book of Kells) and making jewellery.

Then the Vikings came along pillaging and ruined everything. The Normans (who by then were also technically the English) came over in 1169 to invade but Henry II had to come round three years later to sort them out.

After that Ireland successfully ignored England’s rule, which essentially extended only over the ‘Pale’, a bit of land around Dublin. However, Henry VII remembered, and reminded everyone that he was King of Ireland and invaded.

Tyrone’s Rebellion, or the Nine Years’ War, saw the Irish chieftains fight against him before fleeing to Europe. After that the English invaded more, took their land and even sent a lot into slavery in the West Indies! No wonder they hate us!

England then enforced laws that didn’t allow Roman Catholics any rights at all, so only those that followed the Church of England could, e.g., inherit property or sit in Parliament, etc.

In 1739-41 there was a horrible frost that ruined crops across Europe and caused a terrible famine in Ireland.

From 1798 Ireland was allowed to make its own laws, but when Ireland tried to have a proper rebellion the English military squashed it and from 1801 declared Ireland part of ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’. Catchy.

In the 1840s the Great Famine was caused by a potato disease because so many Irish ate almost only potatoes. 1 million died and another 1 million emigrated. Ireland’s population is still less than it was before this famine.

From then some Irish campaigned for ‘Home Rule’, where Ireland would be allowed to rule itself while remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Ulster Unionists (who were in favour of the Act of Union that made Ireland part of the United Kingdom) were against this because they were Protestant and thought Home Rule would be dominated by the Catholics. England thought it had reached a compromise by allowing most of Ireland Home Rule except for Ulster, Northern Ireland.

While England was busy in World War I, the  Easter Rising was another rebellion trying to get England to give up Ireland. England responded by executing 15 leaders and imprisoning more than 1,000 people. This did not help our popularity. We then tried to impose conscription.

After that, the Sinn Fein (Gaelic for ‘we ourselves’) left-wing independent party had overwhelming support from the Irish and declared Ireland to be an independent republic. Their army, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), fought against Britain for three years in a guerrilla war called the Irish War of Independence (1919-21).

England then allowed Ireland independence but offered Northern Ireland the chance to opt out and remain part of the UK, which they accepted.

The Irish Republic became the Irish Free State… and then dissolved into civil war for a while, mainly out of opposition to the Anglo-Irish treaty which arranged all this but still wanted Irish people to swear allegiance to the English king.

For a while Ireland was doing really well but the 2008-10 global recession left it pretty miserable.

Northern Ireland, of course, has been divided by Roman Catholics wanting to join the rest of Ireland in independence and Protestants wanting to stay in the UK.

The Protestants vote for the Ulster Unionist Party, who did something called ‘gerrymandering’, which is where you move the boundaries of electoral districts so you get a greater majority of the votes.

From 1969 the Troubles began, where both sides were very violent to each other, and Britain removed Northern Ireland’s right to Home Rule, which surely annoyed everyone even more.

The old Irish Republican Army, which wanted non-violent civil demonstrations for Catholic rights and against British rule, split into a new group, the Provisional IRA, who were super-violent. However, they were reacting to a violent time, and the Protestants were just as violent.

The British army also behaved appallingly, picking on the Catholics more than the equally naughty Protestants and torturing and detaining them without trial. On Bloody Sunday in 1972 the British army shot dead 26 people who were conducting a peaceful unarmed protest.

In the 1980s and ’90s the IRA blew up some very big bombs in Brighton, London and Manchester.

In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement ended the fighting, restored Home Rule to Northern Ireland and the British army stopped having to support Northern Ireland’s police. This was back in the good old days of Labour before Tony Blair became a war criminal.

Ireland has amazing myths, legends and landscapes.

Newgrange was thought to be the abode of the Tuatha de Danaan, which were a kind of fairy (but very tall and powerful) – we now know it is an incredible work by Neolithic people before Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids were thought of.

The Giant’s Causeway was said to be built by Finn MacCool (great name) who built a causeway to Scotland, but a giant ripped it up so that Finn could not chase him.

blarney-castle-ireland1

Blarney Castle holds the Blarney Stone, which if you kiss gives you the gift of eloquence and is also said to be the Lia Fail stone upon which Irish kings were crowned.

Older children might like to have a go at colouring in some Celtic knotwork or illuminating a letter or a poem for someone’s birthday. Read a children’s version of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Try some Riverdance, Gaelic football or hurling.

Incwala Ceremony (Swaziland, 2015)

29th November

1972 Atari release video game Pong

1898 C.S. Lewis born – read the Narnia books. Readalouddad recommends this version. They’re probably good to read from age 8.

Yugoslavia Republic Day (no longer observed because it doesn’t exist!)

Yugoslavia means Southern Slavs; it was founded in 1918 after WWI. At first it was called the Kingdom of Slavs, Croats and Slovenes but nobody really bothered calling it that – we called it the Versailles State as that was the treaty which founded it.

The prince regent of Serbia became king of Yugoslavia, King Alexander I. There was a shoot-out in his parliament in 1928; to help pull everyone together he suspended parliament, renamed the country Yugoslavia and redid the constitution. He resigned as dictator in 1931 and was assassinated three years later.

Supported by Italy and Germany, the Croats’ part of Yugoslavia declared itself ‘Croatia’.

In 1941 German, Italian and Hungarian forces invaded Yugoslavia. They split it up into Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia.

The resistance was divided between pro-royalist, pro-Serb Chetniks and pan-Yugoslav Partisans led by Joseph Broz Tito. Of course, the problem with two resistance groups is that they wasted a lot of time fighting each other, and the Chetniks actually ended up being supported by the Axis Powers. Tsk.

The Partisans because the greatest guerilla resistance in occupied Western/Central Europe, and freed Yugoslavia by 1945.Tito became the head of Yugoslavia as an independent communist state.

When Tito died in 1980, all the different ethic groups wanted their own country. In 1990 the all-Yugoslav Communist party was dissolved and the republics of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina eventually emerged, after obviously lots of horrendous fighting, especially Kosovo. Serbia and Montenegro wanted to stay together as Yugoslavia, and weren’t officially named Serbia and Montenegro until 2003.

Also today:

  • President Tubmans Birthday (longest-serving Liberian president) – see 26th July
  • Vanuatu Unity Day – see 5th March

29th October

Turkey Republic Day

Most of modern Turkey lies on the Anatolian Peninsula, one of the oldest permanent settlements in the world. It is thought that all Indo-European languages came from here. The European bit, the Eastern Thrace, is also pretty old, and had Neolithic farming in 6,000 B.C.

The Hattians and the Hurrians lived here until the Hittites came along (I know, it’s great) and founded the Hittite Empire (18th-13th century B.C.!) A load of others invaded, Assyrians, Phrygians, Cimmerians, etc., but when the Greeks came and founded Byzantium in 657 B.C. it started to get interesting.

In the 6th-5th centuries B.C. Turkey was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, which fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. The Battle of Troy was fought here, and the architectural site is a big tourist attraction.

Then it became part of the Roman empire, by which time the Anatolian language had been replaced by Greek. In 324, Constantine I chose Byzantium as the Roman capital (which is why it became called Constantinople) and when the Empire was divided, Byzantium became the capital of its eastern half.

In the 11th century, Seljuks (Muslim Turks) invaded and introduced Turkish and Islam. They were then defeated by the Mongols, and one Turkish king who remained, Osman I, founded the dynasty of Ottoman Turks who would rule the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire took over the Byzantine Empire in 1453 when it took Constantinople. Portugal turned out to be the empire’s main rivals for dominance over the Silk Road and the Indian Ocean.

The Empire peaked under Suleiman the Magnificent (look at that turban….)

Its rival now was the Holy Roman Empire, as the Ottomans marched on through the Balkans to Poland-Lithuania. In the 19th century it began to decline; Russia took the Caucasus, and Muslim Turks settled in the Balkans mainly fled back to Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire entered WWI and was defeated. During the war the Ottomans decided to get rid of the Armenians, and while the Armenian men were mainly fighting for their country abroad, the women, children and elderly were sent on death marches into the Syrian desert without food or water. 1.5 million Armenians were killed and the word ‘genocide’ was coined in 1943 to describe this mass murder. Turkey does not recognise it as genocide yet.

After WWI you’d think everyone would have a break, but actually the Allies occupied Constantinople and insisted (in the Treaty of Sèvres) that the Ottoman Empire hand over all non-Turkish land and divide it between (British-owned) Palestine and (French-owned) Syria.

So then the Turkish War of Independence booted them out in 1922, and we all signed the Treaty of Lausanne, which defined nearly all of Turkey’s borders except with Iraq, but didn’t give the Kurds their own homeland, which is why they’re always kind of in the wrong country.There was also some weird population exchange, wherein Greece sent over 380,000 Muslims in return for 1.1 million Greeks.

Mustafa Kemal, who had led the war of independence, became the first president of the Republic. They managed to stay out of most of WWII, and they got a lot of economic support from America’s Truman Doctrine so they didn’t fall into Russia’s hands afterwards.

Cyprus had a bit of a wobble in 1974, when a military coup installed the dictator Nikos Sampson who wanted union with Greece. Turkey invaded, took the north of Cyprus, and by 1983 this had declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognises. Turkey itself still has problems with some separatist Kurds who keep terrorising people.

Their national sport is oiled wrestling….Try making Turkish delight, or buy some and have a Turkish tea party, with coffee (use Nesquik or dandelion and burdock for the kids?) in a pan or tea in tulip-shaped glasses.

Cambodia Coronation Day – see 9th November

29th September

1885 the first public tram opens in Blackpool;

1571 Caravaggio born;

Michaelmas, feast of the Archangels: traditional food on this day is the St Michael’s Bannock.

International Coffee Day – make a big coffee cart for your kid (above) or a little one for their dolls.

Inventors’ Day (Argentina)

World Heart Day – learn more about your heart here.

29th July

1907 the first Scouting camp: 8-day Brownsea Island camp. The boys were in four patrols: Wolves, Ravens, Bulls and Curlews, each with a different coloured knot on their shoulder.

They began the day at 6am with cocoa, exercises, prayers, then breakfast at 8am.

Activities were based on campaigning, observing, woodcraft, chivalry, saving lives, and patriotism.

The day ended with games, supper, campfire stories, prayers, 9pm bed.

They passed tests on knots, tracking, the national flag; Baden-Powell told campfire stories of his fighting in Africa.

1987 Thatcher and Mitterand agree to build the Channel tunnel – where can your kids build a tunnel?

International Tiger Day – so be tigers for the day:

If you can’t face hunting for your own dinner, you can always have tiger oranges.

Also today:

National Anthem Day (Romania – see 24th January)

National Thai Language Day – see 5th December – here’s how to say hello in Thai

St Olavs Day/Olsok (Norway and Faroe Islands)

29th June

Tahiti Anniversary of Internal Autonomy:

Tahiti is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. Its first settlers came from Fiji. After European contact in the 1700s, their paradise was disrupted by guns, prostitution, disease and alcohol, almost wiping out the population.

In 1880 the Tahitian king had to cede his sovereignty to France. In 1946 Tahitians were finally granted French citizenship and in 1966-96 France tested its nuclear bombs out on its nearby coral reefs. Nice. Now France really only helps financially and with military needs; Tahiti has its own government, etc.

Activities: Look at Gauguin’s work from Tahiti. Try pearl-diving (throw an oyster-style shell in the bath and ‘dive’ for it) as Tahiti exports black pearls. Make monoi out of gardenia flowers and coconut oil and use as a conditioner or moisturiser. Make tropical cocktails with little umbrellas. Make the Thunderbirds island!

Feast of St Peter and St Paul – stories here.

Seychelles Independence Day: See 18 June.

29th May

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring premiers in Paris

Oak Apple Day (originally to celebrate the restoration of the monarchy in 1660; people traditionally wore oak apples as Charles II hid in the ‘Royal Oak’ from Parliamentarians). Go hunting for oak apples and wear them in your button hole (although they are wasp eggs, they won’t hurt you; gall wasps don’t sting anyway and the larva inside this oak apple looks nothing like a wasp). Find out more here.

Rhode Island and Wisconsin Statehood Day: Rhode Island (founded 1790) is the smallest state. It has the world’s largest bug sculpture.

Roger Williams founded the state and was The Only Man in the History of the World to think the native people had equal rights to the land that he did, and that atheists, pagans, Jews, Muslims and Christians should all be able to get along. The American Industrial Revolution began here with Samuel Slater’s water-powered cotton mill.

Wisconsin (founded 1848) has the very weird House on a Rock.

Mount Horeb is the Troll Capital of the World because it is covered in sculptures of trolls (Norse folklore said they brought good crops).

Barbie and ice cream sundaes came from here. Bloomer is the Jump Rope Capital of the Word. It also has a Mustard Museum showing 2,300 kinds of mustard.