2nd March

1904 Dr Seuss born

Texas Independence Day (see 22 November for general America or try some Tex-Mex recipes)

Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Omizu-Okuri (Japanese Buddhist water-carrying festival, where river water is carried to the temple)
  • Burma Peasants Day (politicians discuss how to improve the lives of peasants, or farmers, and there are fairs of traditional crafts)
  • Victory of Adwa (celebrates Ethiopia defeating Italy in 1896)
  • Jamahiriya Day (Libya’s People’s Power Day, because Gadaffi liked to pretend he let the people rule themselves).

2nd February

Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau (Mary’s Festival of the Candles).

Candlemas is said to celebrate Jesus being presented at the temple 40 days after his birth so that Mary could be purified (yep, because women are really dirty for 40 days after childbirth; try to avoid them).

Jesus’ swaddling clothes that he wore on this day are said to be in Dobrovnik Cathedral, Croatia.

In France, if you can flip a crepe while holding a coin in the other hand you’ll be prosperous this year.

In Mexico and Guatemala, this is a big feast of tamales, paid for by the person who received the lucky coin in the king’s cake on 6 Jan.

Try well dressing, or candle making.

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Or make a candleholder out of salt dough,

or make a candle out of an orange,

or decorate a pillar candle.

Also, this isn’t much fun for grown-ups but sometimes young children like to help with spring cleaning.

Inbolc:

I think Imbolc means ‘in belly’ as all the ewes are pregnant. We are now halfway through winter to spring. Go on a ‘nearly spring’ walk looking for snowdrops and aconites – near us Nymans, and Pembury House.

This family has a lovely tradition of planting a wish garden.

I also love these constellation books.

We decorate tissue/tracing paper, put it around a glass and put a candle in it:

candle

Here are some other Imbolc ideas.

 

Groundhog Day

2nd January

NASA’s Stardust spaceship

2004 Stardust successfully collected comet samples and cosmic dust. Try playing Comet Catch, or glue glow-in-the-dark glitter and stars to black paper.

Haiti Ancestors’ Day (see 22 May)

Berchtold’s Day (Switzerland and Germany, perhaps to do with Perchta, Woden’s wife) – so play some nut games.

Epiphany Carnivals start in St Kitts and Nevis (Carribean), Colombia and Cape Town. These last two have strange minstrel themes that seem racist to Westerners.

Ninth Day of Christmas (9 ladies dancing – so make a dance show to torture daddy or visiting relatives)

National Science Fiction Day – to celebrate Isaac Asimov’s birthday (b. 1920) – have you read any of these?

2nd December

1859 George Seurat born – so try pointillist paintings

UAE National Day

Hot Air Balloon Festival, Karnataka: For this we were able to buy one of those Chinese lanterns for £1 in our local cheap-stuff shop, but there are a lot of good websites on how to make your own if you’re feeling experimental.

Laos National Day:

Laos began as the Kingdom of a Million Elephants – Lan Xang, what a great name – in the 14th century, when the prince Fa Ngum took over the Vientane (now the capital) with some Khmer (Cambodian) warriors.

In 1548,  King Setthathirat had the That Luang built, a gold-covered Buddhist stupa that is now the national symbol of Laos.

The site had been a temple site since the 3rd century to house the breast bone of Buddha.

In the 1760s,  Burma and Siam annexed bits of Laos so it was divided into three.

In the late 19th century, France protected Laos from a Chinese army of bandits, the Black Flag Army, and in return Laos became part of French Indochina. France rebuilt That Luang from a French explorer’s detailed drawings, as it had been destroyed by an earlier Thai invasion.

In World War II the Japanese popped in for an occupation, but the French booted them back out.

From 1953 Laos was independent, but almost immediately America offered to fund the Royalist army against the Laos Communist movement, Pathet Lao. Obviously this sparked a civil war, which ended in the Communists winning.

Laos was also bombed and invaded by the US and US-supported South Vietnamese when North Vietnam invaded and occupied it during the Vietnam War. In 1964-73, the US dropped some 250 million bombs on Laos trying to get North Vietnam out of it, with 80 million bombs not exploding and leaving Laos a minefield (well done there America). This is more bombs than were dropped on the whole world during World War II, so well done there as well America.

From 1975 Laos became a socialist republic, controlled by Vietnam and supported by Russia. A lasting problem of the Vietnam War, aside from all the unexploded bombs, is Laos’s treatment of the Hmong people, who fought on behalf of the Royalists (i.e., against the Communists) and therefore the Laos socialist government felt they should all be hunted out and killed, just in case.

The Hmongs mainly fled to Thailand, but when America and the UN persuaded Laos to take them back, the Hmongs said, no thanks. So then the US said they’d take 15,000 (they feel a bit responsible for them seeing as they were kind of fighting on the American side). So that only left something like 185,000 in Thailand, either hiding in monasteries or held in deportation centres.

George Bush then amazingly stopped any more Hmongs from moving to America because they had been involved in armed conflict (even though they’d been fighting for the Americans – have I mentioned that?). Thailand continues to force the Hmongs back to Laos, where they claim they are attacked by the army. Not really a happy ending yet.

Here are 10 facts about Laos.

2nd October

1950 Peanuts (Snoopy) first published

 

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1890 Groucho Marx born

 

Mahatma Ghandi’s Birthday

Mehregan (Persian Festival of Autumn – more info here)

Batik Day (Indonesia)

Guinea Independence Day (from France, 1958):

First this was part of the Ghana Empire after the domestication of the camel allowed African tribes to trade and flourish.

Then it became the medieval Sosso kingdom, then the Mali Empire, then the Songhai Empire, one of the largest Islamic empires in history, which fell to Moroccan invaders who dissolved the area into smaller kingdoms.

France invaded in 1898. In 1957 Guinea voted for independence, and the French colonists and much of the infrastructure and money left. Guinea went with Soviet Russia and China, and capitalist countries like the US carried on helping it too.

Sékou Touré was the one-party leader and a bit mad, flitting between US/USSR support and imprisoning/exiling/executing opponents. After Touré died, Lansana Conté took power, turned away from socialism and freed some political prisoners. Recently the country has been affected by West African instability.

Try listening to Bembeya Jazz.

2nd September

1666 the Great Fire of London breaks out; try these teaching resources.

Vietnam National Day (independence from Japan/France, 1945)

Fossilised remains of Homo erectus have been found in Vietnamese caves from 500,000 years ago. By 1,000 B.C. the Đông Sơn culture was farming rice and making bronze drums.

In 111 B.C. Vietnam became part of the Chinese empire for 1,000 years. When it finally got independence, it then had to fight off Mongol invasions. Buddhism became the state religion.

In 1862 the southern half of Vietnam became French Cochinchina, and by 1887 the whole thing was part of French Indochina. France brought Western education and Catholicism. There were a lot of rebellions but the French kept squashing them.

In WWII Japan invaded. Vichy France kind of let them, and they completely took over in 1945. The disruption caused a famine that killed 2 million Vietnamese.

From 1941 Ho Chi Minh had led a Marxist nationalist movement called the Viet Minh, who tried to get independence from France and Japan. When the Allies defeated Japan the Viet Minh declared independence. France disagreed and Vietnam was then at war with France until 1954, when France finally agreed to their independence.

Vietnam was then split into a Communist North Vietnam and the French loyalists in the south. Everyone had 300 days to pick a side and move there. It was meant to be temporary until after the elections, but then the prime minister of the south, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled the emperor of the south and declared himself president of the Republic.

So then the Viet Cong (army) began a guerrilla campaign against Diệm’s rule. Diệm tried to keep control by executing all the naysayers he could find. Meanwhile the north was executing wealthy landowners.

In 1963 Diệm was assassinated and a bunch of military governments followed.

America got involved in 1965 and in Operation Rolling Thunder America napalm-bombed all over South Vietnam without ever attacking the North, as that would get Russia involved and then the Cold War would get hot very fast. China and Russia were supporting North Vietnam militarily, which was then filtering through to the communist fighters via the Ho Chi Minh trail through Laos. So America bombed Laos a lot too.

In 1973 America agreed to pull out. By 1976 North Vietnam had totally taken over South Vietnam and it became a united Socialist Republic.

In the ’70s and ’80s, collectivisation of farms and factories caused huge inflation, while hundreds of thousands died in re-education camps, labour camps or just regular ol’ executions. Hundreds of thousands tried to escape in homemade boats; hundreds of thousands died at sea.

In 1978 Vietnam attacked the Khmer Rouge, communist Cambodia, as they kept attacking Vietnam. This annoyed China and after that Vietnam could only rely on Russian support.

From 1986 Vietnam has been a socialist-oriented market economy, which led to economic growth and income inequality.

Tibet Democracy Day – see 10th March.

2nd August

Virgin of the Angels Day (Costa Rica celebrates its patron saint, La Negrita, a statue discovered that refused to budge and so a church was built around it).

Macedonia Ilinden (National Holiday):

In ancient times Macedonia was mostly the kingdom of Paeonia. In 356 B.C. Philip II of Macedon founded the kingdom of Macedonia, which became part of his son’s empire – Alexander the Great.

The Romans made it part of their empire in 146 B.C. After the fall of the Roman empire, Macedonia was part of the Byzantine empire, although Slavs, Avars (nomadic Turkish/Asian tribes) and Bulgars still lived there.

In the 14th century it became part of the Serbian Empire, and then part of the Ottoman Empire, along with the other Balkan states, for five centuries.

In the 19th century nationalism began to rise, but any uprisings were crushed and many killed. This day celebrates the Ilinden Uprising on 2 August 1903, which was quashed after about 20 days.

Then the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and Macedonia became southern Serbia, and then after WWI it became the Vardar Banovina (Vardar state) of the Yugoslav Kingdom.

In WWII Yugoslavia was occupied by the Axis (Nazi) powers, and was divided between Bulgaria and Albania.

When the Axis powers were driven out, Macedonia declared itself the People’s Republic of Macedonia within Yugoslavia – one of six republics in Yugoslavia. They decided to have their own Macedonian language based on the Slav dialects used in the area, and even created a Macedonian alphabet based on the Serbian alphabet. Use this wonderful keyboard to type your name in Macedonian!

On 8th September 1991 Macedonia peacefully gained independence from Yugoslavia.

In 2001 following the 1999 Kosovo war when many Albanian refugees came to Macedonia, Albanians living in Macedonia demanded an independent area, but eventually agreed to just have more political autonomy.

In Macedonian folk music, the gajda (bagpipes) and tambura (two-stringed lute) are played with the kaval (flute) and tapan (drum). The most famous Macedonian folk dance is called Teskoto (The Hard One).

One cute tradition is the Galicnik Wedding where one couple marries and EVERYONE is invited. A spooky place is Kuklica, which is said to be full of stone ‘Dolls’ after a bride saw her groom-to-be with another bride (he’d proposed twice and organised both weddings on the same day – rookie mistake) and cursed everyone.

Skopje, the capital, decided in 2014 to try to be more ‘European’, which some see as ‘historical kitsch’ and added museums, government buildings and hundreds of statues, to mask the previous socialist architecture built in the 60s when the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake.