30th April

Walpurgis Night (or St Walpurga’s Night, originally) is associated more with witches than the female saint. In Czechoslovakia they burn little witches made of rags; in Estonia they dress as witches like we would on Hallowe’en; in Finland there are carnivals and picnics; northern Germany has bonfires.

In old Ireland it was called Beltane; the day cattle were driven to the pastures for the summer, and rituals were done to protect them such as passing them through two bonfires. The flames would be used to relight all domestic fires and candles, and the ashes from the original fires would be spread on crops.

Other events today:

  • Children’s Day (Mexico) – see 16th September
    Reunification Day (Vietnam) – see 2nd September
  • Louisiana founded (1812): famous for New Orleans, voodoo, jazz, tobasco sauce, Mardi Gras, jambalaya, gumbo, pralines
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29th April

International Dance Day – it’s time to reenact some of your favourite dance videos, isn’t it? We like Daft Punk’s Around the World, Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, Run DMC/Jason Nevin’s It’s Like That, the Evolution of Dance, and Beyonce’s Move Your Body.

1789 George Washington becomes first elected President of US

Showa Day (Japanese reflect on the reign of Emperor Hirohito 1926-89, which saw Japan’s pretty appalling behaviour during WWII and subsequent occupation by America)

Vallenato Legend Festival (Colombian music festival, 2014)

28th April

1948 Terry Pratchett born – so read Johnny and the Bomb

Sardinia National Day: Sardinia is full of very cool giants’ tombs from the Bronze Age.

There are also about 7,000 nuraghi from 1500 B.C. onwards, defensive forts.

Phoenicians began to invade, and with Carthaginian help they took the south. When the Carthaginians were defeated by Rome, Rome took Sardinia and Corsica. Romans pushed the Nuragic people into the mountains, which they then called Barbaria. They ruled Sardinia for 694 years, during which Sardinia grew loads of grain for the empire and Latin was the main language.

The Vandals came in 456 AD but Rome soon took it back. From 533 it was part of the Byzantine Empire. Gradually it became independent, and no one’s sure exactly how, until the native ‘judges’ became the rulers. It then continued without much outside influence, like a little imperial Rome.

Then Pisa invaded a bit, and the Pope offered a made-up crown of Corsica and Sardinia to James II of Aragon to settle the War of the Vespers.

Then from 1465 some ‘judges’ (or giudici) managed to bring together most of Sardinia, with only Cagliari and Alghero still belonging to Aragon (Spain). But then the Kingdom of Aragon took the whole thing back, and introduced the feudal system at a time the rest of Europe was starting to realise it was awful.

Charles I of Spain

Sardinia was inherited by Charles I of Spain, who fortified Sardinia against African Berber pirates. Sardinia suffered a lot of famines during Spanish rule.

In 1708 Spain handed Sardinia over to Austria after the Spanish War of Succession deciding who should reign after Charles II of Spain (he’d chosen Philip of Anjou, but everyone panicked about France and Spain uniting their empires under one king and had a big ol’ fight about it. They decided on Philip V of Spain instead, and meanwhile redistributed some of Spain’s empire).

Napoleon

In 1793 Napoleon tried to invade a couple of times but was repelled. The Dukes of Savoy fled to Sardinia to hide from Napoleon, and bizarrely Sardinia then united with the Italian states of Turin and Piedmont and the French states of Nice and Savoy, and they all had one parliament in Turin. Sardinia then became the Kingdom of Italy. Not kidding.

Then they went a bit Fascist, and imprisoned anyone who didn’t want to be a fascist, and if anyone spoke Sardinian they went to prison too.

In 1946 Italy became a republic and Sardinia a state of autonomy. They eradicated malaria, got a boost in tourism, went fully industrial in the ’60s, suffered an oil crisis in the ’70s, accepted some NATO military bases during the Cold War, and now it’s phasing into Europe.

Sardinia has its own special singing style, cantu a tenori, and instrument called a launeddas. Maria Carta and Elena Ledda are famous Sardinian singers.

Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Feast of Beauty (Baha’i faith)
  • Barbados National Heroes Day
  • Victory of the Muslim Nations (Afghanistan Revolution Day).
  • Maryland state founded (1788): cookies, Edgar Allen Poe

27th April

1749 Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks first performed

1810 Beethoven composes Fuer Elise

2005 the first Airbus flies

1791 Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse code, born

Sierra Leone Independence Day (from UK in 1961):

Despite being a tiny country full of diamonds, gold, titanium and bauxite, and despite having the third largest natural harbour in the world at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, 70% of its people live in poverty. Its name means ‘Lioness Mountains’.

From 1495 it was a slave-trading post for many countries; from 1787 escaped African-American slaves began to set up colonies there, becoming Freetown, the country’s capital.

I’m not sure exactly how it became British; it seems like we just casually took over, but after 1961 democracy lasted about 6 years, then they had all kinds of military coups and then a civil war. The UN tried to get involved, and 500 were taken hostage. So the British came in and sorted everyone out, and apparently now Tony Blair is quite popular over there for helping.

King’s Day (Netherlands and colonies) – everyone wears orange and celebrates the King’s birthday – so maybe dress up as kings and queens and have an orange feast!

Other events that might inspire your play:

  • S. Africa Freedom Day (celebrates the first elections in 1994 when black people could vote)
  • Togo Independence Day (from France in 1960 – see 13 Jan)

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.

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.