23rd April

St George’s Day:

We made a finger puppet show and dressed one of Baby’s teddy bears up as St George (cardboard helmet, sword, shield, and horse. I meant to make him a little chainmail top out of an old teatowel but didn’t get round to it.)

StGeorge

The story goes that a dragon lived near a village and brought plague and devastation on the inhabitants unless they appeased him with sheep and, when that didn’t work, children chosen by lottery. One day the king’s daughter was chosen in the lottery. The king offered the village his wealth to try and dissuade them; but the princess had to go.

St George turned up, luckily, and captured the dragon. He brought it back to the village (who I assume were all like “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”) and said he’d kill the dragon if they all converted to Christianity. They did so he did. The End.

What about strapping on some pillows and a helmet and trying some jousting (using a parent as a horse?). He is also the patron saint of Turkey, so they celebrate Turkey National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.

Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • World Book Day (except in the UK cos we’re awkward)
  • Funafuti Bomb Day (Tuvalu): In WWII 680 people took refuge in the concrete walled, thatched-roofed church from a Japanese bombing raid. Fortunately an American soldier persuaded them to get into dugouts, as a bomb struck the building shortly after.
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22nd April

Earth Day – try some of these websites on environmentalism for kids. Step one is: does your kid know which planet she lives on, and what it looks like? Here’s some crafts to help:

Explore nature around you – bring a pooter and a magnifying glass.

You can collect some food for eating e.g., dandelions!

Step two is, how to be more environmentally friendly. I don’t particularly care whether you believe in man-made global warming: pollution is bad. Using up resources and destroying biodiversity is bad. And the solution is simple: consume less. So talk about how to use, buy and waste less. We learnt about where our landfill goes, and how glass, aluminium and plastic are recycled.

1876 the first ever National League baseball played – so play baseball.

Discovery Day (Brazil)

Brazil is the world’s 5th largest country, and the world’s largest producer of coffee. It is named after the brazil wood, from the Latin brasa, ember, because the wood is red like an ember and was exported to make red dyes. (But brazil nuts come from brazil nut trees.)

Humans lived here for at least 11,000 years and when the Portuguese arrived in a fleet captained by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 there were around 7 million indigenous people here.

For the first two centuries, the Europeans and indigenous people just fought each other. By the 16th century sugar was its largest export and slavery its largest import – to make the sugar. Then in the 1690s there was the Brazilian Gold Rush which brought a load more Portuguese over.

In 1807 the capital of the Portuguese empire was moved from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after Napoleon invaded Portugal. In 1815, the empire became the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves – but the Portuguese weren’t happy that their monarchy had abandoned them, and Brazil wanted independence, so it didn’t last.

In 1822 Brazil gained independence, albeit under the Portuguese Prince Regent, Pedro, who declared himself Emperor of Brazil (can you have an empire of one country?). Then Portugal had a civil war and Pedro left to sort it out, leaving his five-year-old son as the new emperor. Wow.

Brazil fought a lot of wars with its bordering countries while Pedro II was in power, and this affected the economy and made everyone miserable, so he was booted out by a military coup d’état and Brazil became a Republic. Since then they’ve had a lot of brutal repression and coups and corruption, but they are currently stable and democratic. Which is nice.

Learn about the Amazon rainforest – make a rainforest terrarium, rainforest cookies, or a playdough rainforest.

21st April

753 BC Rome founded – try these Roman online games.

1934 the ‘Surgeon’s Photo’ of Nessie published – so go on a monster hunt. What kind of a monster would live near you?

1926 Queen Elizabeth II born – so have a royal birthday party:

Grounation Day: Rastafarians celebrate the Emperor of Ethiopia’s (who they thought was Jesus’ Second Coming) arrival in Jamaica on this day 1966.

Heroica Defensa de Veracruz (Mexico defended Veracruz against US in 1914);

1960 Inauguration of Brasilia, capital of Brazil

Kartini Day (Indonesia) – Kartini was an aristrocratic girl who fought hard for Indonesian women’s rights;

San Jacinto Day (Texas celebrates its liberation from Mexico in 1836)

Tiradentes (Brazil) – Joaquim Xavier led a liberation movement called Inconfidencia Mineira. The movement was meant to gain complete freedom from Portuguese rule.

20th April

1951 Romanian surgeon Dan Gavriliu performs the first human organ replacement – so play Operation!

UN Chinese Language Day – so learn Chinese or try Chinese calligraphy.

Ridvan begins (Baha’i faith): a 12-day festival celebrating Baha’ullah becoming a prophet. Baha’ullah stayed for 12 days in the Garden of Ridvan outside Baghdad after the Ottoman Empire exiled him.

19th April

Dutch-American Friendship Day – John Adams, later the second president of the US, made his Dutch house the first American embassy in the world; many states hold a Tulip Festival around this time, so maybe decorate a vase especially for tulips, or make origami tulips;

another idea is to have poffertjes for pudding.

Primrose Day (UK anniversary of Benjamin Disraeli’s death; his statue and grave are strewn with primroses on this day) – so go on a walk to hunt for them. Primroses are fairy flowers. If you touch a fairy rock with the right number of primroses in a posy you will be shown the way to fairyland. The wrong number leads to certain doom though. Children used to eat the flowers (they are edible) in the belief that this would enable them to see fairies. This video shows you how to crystalise them.

Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Kiribati National Health Day: where everyone takes the day off to play sports and relax
  • Swaziland Birthday of King Mswati III Uruguay
  • Landing of the 33 Patriots (exiled Uruguyan fighters returned to kick the Brazillian government out and claim independence)
  • Venezuela ’19 April Day’, celebrating the first Junta (military government) in Latin America, the First Republic of Venezuela and the struggle for independence. See 5th July for more ideas.

18th April

Zimbabwe Independence Day

Zimbabwe is named after the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, and may mean ‘large stone houses’.

From c.1450 Zimbabwe was called the Mutapa Empire and provided trade routes to Arabs and the Portuguese. The Portuguese decided they wanted to own the routes and began to war with them until the empire collapsed.

It then became the Rozwi Empire, expelling the Portuguese. A Zulu clan called the Ndebele conquered the Rozwi empire by 1838.

In the 1880s Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company arrived, gradually took over using some very British treaties and soldiers, and named the country Rhodesia after Cecil.

The BSAC tried to raid the South African Republic, expecting British ex-pats there to rise up and help fight off their Dutch rulers, but it failed, and this inspired the Ndebele to rebel, but this was quashed.

In WWII Southern Rhodesia contributed more (per white person) to the war effort, particularly in East Africa fighting Italian Axis forces, than any other part of the British empire, including Britain.

Northern and Southern Rhodesia were combined (by Britain, without anyone wanting them to) with Nyasaland (now Malawi) into the Central African Federation, which didn’t last long.

Northern Rhodesia then became Zambia, and independent, so Southern Rhodesia’s Ian Smith, who led the Rhodesian Front, claimed independence too. Britain was reluctant as usually we only allowed colonies to become independent once they had a majority rule (i.e., they weren’t being governed solely by the white minority).

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union and Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National  Union started a guerilla war against the white Rhodesian Front.

In 1978 Ian Smith agreed that maybe actual Africans could run for election too, and the United African National Council won, with African bishop Abel Muzorewa becoming Prime Minister.

Britain helped negotiate to end the guerilla war. In 1980 Mugabe’s ZANU won a landslide victory. The Ndebele thought this was a Shona takeover; Mugabe killed and tortured tens of thousands of Ndebele to shut them up in the Matabeleland Massacres.

Other problems emerged: around 1 in 4 Zimbabweans were infected with HIV by 1997, and in 2006 Zimbabwe had the shortest life expectancy in the world (about 35 years).

70% of the land was owned by white people. Mugabe forcefully redistributed the land to his friends in 2000. In 2002 Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth.

60% of Zimbabwe’s wildlife has died since 2000 due to excessive poaching and deforestation (people use trees for fuel as electricity is unreliable).

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River is one of the biggest waterfalls in the world.

Zimbabwe is also proud of its Balancing Rocks – can you build something like this?

The Shona people are famous for their sculptures.

Did you know Boy Scouting began here when Baden-Powell was fighting in the second Matabele War with Frederick Burnham, the Chief of Scouts for the British Army, and they started planning…

 

Japan Invention Day

They’ve invented such things as the novel, the idea of time travel, many different martial arts and video games, the digital synthesiser. They also have a special category of inventions, chindogu, which is those ‘unuseless’ inventions that seem like a good idea but actually cause more problems.

 

 

17th April

1397 Chaucer tells the Canterbury Tales for the first time, to Richard II’s court

Syria Independence Day (from France, 1946):

Syria is part of the Fertile Crescent around the Nile, and has been a place of settlement since 10,000 B.C. Gifts from Pharoahs have been found in ancient graves.

The most important ancient city was Ebla, which had one of the world’s oldest written languages.

From 2500 B.C.  Syria was conquered by Sargon of Akkad and other Semitic peoples, by Indo-European Hittites, the Sumerians (now southern Iraq), Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites (now around Israel), Phoenicians (now Lebanon), and the Arameans emerged.

Thennnnn the Assyrians took over again, then the Mesopotamians, then the Babylonians again, then the Persians, then Alexander the Great from Greece, then the Romans.

Paul the Apostle was converted on the Road to Damascus about this time.

Then the Palmyran Empire emerged, then it became part of the Byzantine Empire.

Then in around 630 A.D. it became part of the Islamic Empire, which stretched from Spain to India to Central Asia. Damascus became this empire’s capital until 750 A.D., and Syria was split into Damascus, Homs, Palestine and Jordan.

Then the Byzantine Empire came back in by 996 A.D., then the Sejuk Turks from 1084, then Saladin of Egypt.

Then (*sigh*) by Western European Crusaders, Shi’a extremist Assassins and Mongols. In 1400 Tamerlane, a Turko-Mongol ruler trying to recreate Genghis Khan’s empire came in, and in true Genghis style slaughtered everyone except the artisans, who he took back with him.

By the end of the 15th century Syria as a trade route became less important because we could go to the Far East by sea.

In 1516 the Ottoman Empire took Syria. The Turks were Muslims too and respected Arabic as the language of the Koran so not too much changed. Damascus became a bit holier as a stopping point on the way to Mecca.

After WWI, two French and English diplomats had secretly agreed how to divide the Ottoman Empire up between them, and Syria came under French control.

In 1920 Emir Faisal tried to make Syria an independent kingdom, but France booted him out and split Syria up so Britain now owned Palestine.

Sultan al-Altrash led a revolt in 1925, but again the French squished it and sentenced al-Altrash to death. More peaceful and official attempts at gaining independence were also refused, of course.

In WWII Syria became part of Vichy (Nazi) France, then the Brits and the Free French occupied it instead.

Syria declared itself independent in 1941, and the last French troops finally withdrew in April 1946!

In 1948 Syria was part of the Arab-Israeli war opposing the establishment of the state of Israel, which was created by the UN out of a part of British Palestine. During this time most Jews left Syria, as you can imagine.

Since then they had a bunch of military coups, while the economy and peasant classes were ignored.

During the Suez Crisis (Egypt decided to nationalise the Suez Canal; Britain, France and Israel invaded to stop it), Syria sided with the Soviet Union in return for more military equipment.

They also decided to really side with Egypt and the two countries merged into the United Arab Republic in 1958. Again, more military coups, and Syria went back to become the Syrian Arab Republic.

From then there were more coups, a bit more socialism, and problems with Israel “just doing some farming” using armoured tractors backed by military on land that didn’t belong to them.

In 1973 Syria and Egypt launched the Yom Kippur War, a surprise attack on Israel, which didn’t work and Israel ended up owning more of Syria’s land.

In 1976 Syria accidentally occupied Lebanon for 30 years after intervening in its civil war, staying there until Israel popped in to kick them out (and also tried to take southern Lebanon, but Syria stopped them).

In 1982 Syria squashed the Muslim Brotherhood, who were plotting to assassinate the President for not being Muslim enough, by bombing its own city of Hana and leaving 25,000 wounded or dead.

Under President Bashar al-Assad from 2000, there was some hope for political reform but this was repressed, and intellectuals were arrested.

America decided Syria had weapons of mass destruction and was part of the axis of evil. In 2005 Lebanese PM Hariri was assassinated and Syria was suspected; the West stopped being nice to Syria for three years.

In 2007 Israel bombed north Syria, saying there was a nuclear facility being built there with North Korea’s help.

In 2010 America decided Syria was secretly building nuclear weapons and supports terrorist groups.

From 2011 the country has been at civil war. Inspired by the Arab Spring, protests began for reform and political freedom; the army was deployed and it all seems to have spiralled out of control, with 2.5 million people displaced, and thousands of civillians killed.

Culture: Syrian dances include the al-Samah, the Dabkeh and the sword dance. Syrian singers include Asmahan and Farid al-Altrash. Syria’s famous dish is kibbeh.

Other activities that might inspire your play today:

  • FAO Day (Iraq’s Food and Agriculture Organisation helps farmers achieve better harvests through technology and information, and on this day awards top farmers)
  • American Samoa’s Flag Day