6th May

1844 the world’s first mechanically frozen ice-rink, the Glaciarium, opens in London – so make an ice rink for your toys by putting a plate of water in the freezer overnight.

1889 the Eiffel Tower revealed at the Paris Universal Exposition  – can you build it?

1994 Channel Tunnel opens

Also today:

  • Lebanon/Gabon/Syria Martyrs’ Day
  • Lithuania Mother’s Day

  • The first day of Hıdırellez (Turkey’s spring festival, celebrating Muslim equivalent of St George and some Pagan deities)

6th March


Michaelangelo born 1475 – try reproducing his greatest works through posed photography, mosaics, sculpture, whatever you want. This website has facts and his most famous works.

Norfolk Island’s Foundation Day:

The Islands were first settled by Polynesians in around the 14th century but they left after a few generations. James Cook spotted it on his way past and named it after the Duchess of Norfolk.

At first Britain moved in to grow hemp so they didn’t have to rely on Russian exports, and in 1788 they sent convicts there to convert the island into a deportation centre, but in 1813 they had left again, as the islands were too far away so it was too costly to send convicts there. They destroyed all the buildings and livestock so other Europeans wouldn’t claim it as their own.

Later its remoteness was seen as advantage for sending the worst convicts there. In 1853 those convicts were moved back to Tasmania, as the UK was stopping penal colonies and starting penal servitude within the UK.

In 1856 Pitcairn Islanders moved in as their island had become too small. These were a mix of Tahitians and descendants of the HMS Bounty mutiny.

From 1901 it became part of the Australian Commonwealth, but the citizens only pay income tax, no other tax.

Our colonisation destroyed much of the island’s rainforest and the introduction of rats and cats have killed off many of the island’s birds. The island has very few surnames, as all the Pitcairners were related to each other, so their telephone directory has to include nicknames too; and the islanders are very friendly and all drivers wave to each other as they pass – this is called the Norfolk Wave. The culture is quite Tahitian, including the hula dance.


Ghana Independence Day:

Ghana means ‘warrior king’. It was mostly unpopulated historically, but Akan people lived there from the 11th century and traded gold.

The Ashanti Empire took most of it by the 19th century, making a third slaves.

Portuguese, Dutch, English and French traders arrived, attracted by the gold. Britain named it the Gold Coast; France named it the Ivory Coast.

The Ashanti tried to fight against British domination, and won a few battles, but eventually lost.

After WWII the population really tried to rebel against British power and from 1957 Ghana was declared ‘free forever’.


Kwame Nkrumah, the first Ghanaian president, was the first African president to try and create pan-Africanism, an African-American idea of equality for all people in Africa no matter what their ethnicity. It is the most religious country in the world.

Try making some Kente cloth.

Their favourite sport is football. Music invented in Ghana includes Afro-jazz and highlife.


European Day of the Righteous – so fight for some human rights.

6th February

Waitangi Day: commemorates the signing of the Waitangi treaty which gave the Maori people the right to be treated as British citizens with rights to their own land (I don’t think this actually happened), so try a haka dance, learn about the (extinct) moa …

Sports include ki-o-rahi and tapawai.

Sami National Day:

Sami, sometimes known as Laplanders, are the northernmost indigenous people in Europe, living in Sapmi, an area through Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, for at lease 5,000 years. Sea Sami live off fish and Mountain Sami live off reindeer.

Nomads following their herds, they had to pay tax in Sweden, Norway and Finland as the reindeer passed through; and at one point, Sweden captured them to work in a slave mine.

Since then, because they are dependent on land owned by the governments of several other countries, they have been excluded from the fishing quotas, Russia dumped radioactive waste in their fishing waters, Chernobyl wiped out the lichen the reindeer need in the winter, they lost their winter grazing land in Sweden to the world’s largest onshore wind farm, and of course everyone wants to mine their lands.

Although they are recognised as a protected indigenous people, this has all been mainly without compensation.

Their handicraft is called duodji: their national singing is called joik; the national anthem is ‘Sámi soga lávlla’.

Massachusetts founded (1788): British Puritans landed here in the Plymouth Colony. The Boston Tea Party was when colonists threw tea out of boats rather than pay tax to the Brits for importing it. Their first-response militia, the Minutemen, were among the first to fight in the Revolution. Cape Cod. Boston cream pie.

1819 Singapore founded

Temasek (meaning ‘Sea Town), founded in the 2nd century, was the earliest known settlement in Singapore. In the 13th century the Kingdom of Singapura was founded on the island but was destroyed by the Indonesian Majahapit Empire in the 13th century. In 1613 Polish raiders burnt down the remaining settlement.

In 1819 the British East India Company signed a treaty with Johor (in Malaysia) to develop Singapore into a trading post. The population went from 1,000 people to 80,000, mostly Chinese labourers to work on the rubber plantations.

In WWII Britain surrendered Singapore to the Japanese. Winston  Churchill called it the ‘worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history’. The Japanese massacred thousands of Chinese people. The Allies bombed Singapore a lot, you know, to help. When Japan surrendered Britain took it back.

In 1969 Singapore was granted independence. The first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, helped to make Singapore the Garden City it is today.

6th December

St Nicholas Day

2006 water found on Mars




Johann Christian Bach born 1642 – famous for the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor

Finland’s Independence Day



Finland was first settled about 8,500 years ago as the Ice Age receded.

Swedish kings took over in the 12th century in the Northern Crusades. By the 17th century, Swedish was the language of the aristocrats and Finnish was the language of the peasants.

Russia invaded twice in the 18th century, which Finns call the Greater Wrath and the Lesser Wrath. During the Greater Wrath nearly a whole generation of Finnish men was lost as Russia destroyed homes, farms and set fire to Helsinki. From 1809-1917 Finland was part of the Russian Empire.

In 1835 the Kalevala was published, and the Finnish language gained equal status to Swedish in 1892.

After the February Revolution in Russia in 1917 deposed the tsar, Finland was a bit confused as to who was now in charge of it. As Russia was taken over by Communists, Finland declared itself independent. However, they then fell into civil war between the Whites (right-wing) and the Reds (left). The Whites won and tens of thousands of reds were put in internment camps or executed. In 1919 Finland became a presidential republic.

During WWII Finland fought Russia in the Winter War of 1939-40, and then again after Finland allied with Germany against Russia. Then in 1944 Finland signed an armistice with Russia and then fought against Germany, who were retreating from Russia in northern Finland.

Finland lost 10% of its land and 20% of its industry in the treaties with Russia that followed.

In the 1990s, after Soviet Russia’s collapse, Finland’s main trading partner, it had a bad recession. Finland is one of the world’s oldest countries, with half of voters aged over 50.

Its national animal is the brown bear. It also has wolverines, wolves and elk. It has warm summers but is covered in snow from November to April. At Finland’s northernmost point, the sun never sets for 73 days of summer, and never rises for 51 days of winter.

ST NICHOLAS LIVES HERE! IN LAPLAND! Coincidence that their independence day is on St Nicholas’ Day?



Spain Constitution Day:

Spain was originally populated by Iberians, Basques and Celts; from 210 B.C. it became part of the Roman Empire. But when the Germanic Vandals and Suevi along with Iranian Alans (imagine a whole tribe of Alans! Terrifying.) were driven into Spain by the (also Germanic) Visigoths, the western Roman empire began to disintegrate. [V]Andalusia is named after the Vandals.

In the 8th century Muslim North African Moorish conquered most of Spain. Their capital, Cordoba, was the wealthiest and most advanced city in Western Europe.

The Reconquiesta was the Christian conquering of Muslim Iberia. During this time a kingdom called the Crown of Aragon flourished, ruling from the east of Spain across to Italy, and later joined with the Crown of Castile and then pushed the Muslim rulers out. Everyone was going to get along, honest, until the Spanish Inquisition told the Jews to convert to Catholicism or be expelled – then the Muslims too.

In 1492 Christopher Columbus found the New World on Spain’s behalf and Spain emerged as the first world power, leading Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries and owning bits of everywhere, like Belgium, France, Germany, Africa, the Americas, Italy, the Netherlands, etc., did.

But the Spanish Hapsburg rulers of this empire, Charles I and Philip II, imposed harsh Roman Catholic rules on their lands and the Protestant Reformation against this caused revolts and wars and dragged the empire down. In particular it lost its bits of France, the Netherlands and Portugal.

The Thirty Years’ War, which involved most of Europe mostly fighting over who should be Catholic and who should be Protestant, ruined Spain further.

In the end, the civil war called the War of Spanish Secession put a French king on the throne, the Bourbon Philip V, uniting the remaining bits of Spain into a single state. It was no longer the top power in Europe.

After France overthrew its monarchy, Spain declared war on them… and lost.

Napoleon persuaded Spain to join him in a declaration of war against Portugal and Britain. Then he took his army ‘through’ Spain to ‘invade’ Portugal…and conquered Spain on the way. Embarrasing.

Spain started a war of independence against France, and with Britain’s help and also with Napoleon greedily over-stretching himself with a war against Russia, France was booted out of Spain.

Spain was left poor and unstable, so most of the Spanish Americas took the opportunity to declare their independence from Spain.

In the 20th century Spain managed to colonise some bits of Africa – the Western Sahara, Morocco, Equitorial Guinea, but lost its monarchy and became a republic, which allowed the separate regions of Spain to have autonomy.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-9) was won by the facist Nazi-supporting side under Franco.

Russia, America and Mexico had tried to help but Britain officially wasn’t bothered. Thanks to Franco likewise not being bothered about Britain or Nazis, Spain managed to keep out of World War II and so later wasn’t allowed in the UN, but gained American support as Franco was anti-Communist.

For some reason, even though Spain was a republic, Franco had passed a law that let him choose his successor who would also be king. But King Juan Carlos I (who is still king today) very kindly allowed a democratic parliament to run the country with him.

Spain is famous for: Altamira cave paintings; Spanish Inquisition; Spanish Miracle; Don Quixote; Gaudi; Dali; Picasso; flamenco; Spanish guitar; paella; gazpacho; arroz negro (made with squid ink!); Castilian soup (ham and garlic); bull fighting; La Tomatina (a tomato fight involving like 90,000 people); tapas; siestas; Spanish Tortilla; Guggenheim Museum; El Carnaval de Cádiz; Las Fallas; La Feria de Abril in Seville; Las Fiestas de San Fermín in Pamplona; La Feria de Malaga; La Virgen del Carmen, patroness of fishermen, with celebrations in all coastal towns on July 16th; saffron; mazapan; turron.

6th November

1947 Michelle Magorian born, author of Goodnight Mr Tom

Tatarstan Constitution Day

Finnish-Swedish Heritage Day

Marche Verte (Anniversary of the Green March, Morocco tried to force Spain to hand over its bit of the Sahara with a mass demo)

Dominican Constitution Day – see 27th February

Tajikstan Constitution Day – see 27th June

6th July

Comoros Independence Day:

The first settlers were Africans and Austronesians arriving by boat in the 6th century A.D., followed by all sorts of nationalities and cultures.  In the 9th/10th centuries each island had one central village; in the 11th-15th centuries trade with Madagascar and the Middle East caused a population growth and towns appeared.

In the 16th century Portugal built a fort there; in 1793 Magalysy warriors from Madagscar raided the islands for slaves.

In 1841 France decided it owned the Comoros. On 6 July 1975 Comoros declared itself independent, except for Mayotte which decided to stay French.

Over the next 30 years there were 20 coups, presidents were assassinated, French paratroopers had to be called in, all that stuff. French-trained gendarme Mohammed Bacar seized Anjouan in 2001, staged a vote to confirm his power, tortured thousands that disagreed with him, African Union soldiers had to come in and he fled in a speedboat. How exciting.


Comoros are the world’s largest producer of ylang-ylang – can you make your own perfume from garden flowers? The Comoros are also famous for the prehistoric deep sea fish known as the coelacanthe, thought to be long extinct, but discovered earlier this century in these waters.

Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Jan Hues

(public holiday in Czech Republic: after Jan Huss was burned at the stake for being a Protestant, Hussites rebelled against the Roman Catholics and defeated five papal crusades in 1420-31. 100 years later, 90% of the Czech people were Hussites.

Wife-Carrying Championships

Anniversary of the Coronation of King Mindaugas/Lithuania Statehood Day (6 July 1253, the first Grand Duke of Lithuania and the first and only King of a unified Lithuania)

Malawi Republic Day:

Malawi was first settled by Bantu-speaking hunter-gatherers around the 10th century. After 1600 Malawi began trading with the Portuguese. In the mid-19th century about 20,000 people were enslaved each year by the Arab-Swahili slave trade.

David Livingstone arrived in 1859 and thought the Shire Highlands, south of Lake Malawi, would be nice for Europeans to live, so a bunch of English missionaries came over.

By 1891 Britain had Malawi as a ‘Protectorate’ (protecting it from Portugal), and renamed it Nyasaland. In 1953 we stuck Nyasaland together with Northern and Southern Rhodesia and called it the Central African Federation.

Dr Hastings Banda led nationalist sentiment against this union, and in 1961 was elected president. On 6 July 1964 Malawi became independent with Banda as President-for-Life. He actually didn’t do a terrible job and the economy did well for a landlocked over-populated country with no mineral resources. In 1993 Banda finally agreed to a referendum and since then it’s been a democracy.

Watch the National Dance Troupe.

Marshall Islands Fishermen’s Holiday

So make a fishing game:

The first night of Ivan Kupala Day (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia celebrate St John the Baptist, 24th June, because of their awkward love of the Julian calendar). Young people jump over bonfires; girls float wreaths of flowers lit with candles down rivers to foresee the future of their relationships by the current’s pull; and go into the woods looking for magical fern flowers.

Tell the folktale of St John’s Eve and listen to ‘Night on Bald Mountain’.

First day of San Fermin (Pamplona, Spain), a festival famous for its bull-running, as well as ‘El Struendo’, when everyone gathers in the town centre and makes as much noise as possible, and a parade of gigantes y cabezudos.

6th May

1844 the world’s first mechanically frozen ice-rink, the Glaciarium, opens in London – so make an ice rink for your toys by putting a plate of water in the freezer overnight.

1889 the Eiffel Tower revealed at the Paris Universal Exposition  – can you build it?

1994 Channel Tunnel opens

Also today:

  • Lebanon/Gabon/Syria Martyrs’ Day
  • Lithuania Mother’s Day

  • The first day of Hıdırellez (Turkey’s spring festival, celebrating Muslim equivalent of St George and some Pagan deities)