11th February

1942 Glen Miller’s ‘Chatanooga Choo-Choo’ first to receive a gold record for selling more than a million copies

US Inventor’s Day

Japan National Foundation Day:

Japanese call Japan Nippon, which means ‘sun-origin’ so it’s also called Land of the Rising Sun.


Japan is actually made up of 6,852 islands!

First evidence of humans was 30,000 years ago. Buddhism came over in the 3rd century.

From about 1200 A.D. a ruling warrior class of samurais emerged, called shoguns. Everyone was very fighty, and there was a century of civil wars called the Sengoku period.

In the 16th century the Portuguese reached Japan for the first time. From 1590 Japan was united into one nation.

From 1603 codes of conduct were issued for the samurai classes to try and stop them from doing things like killing someone just for an insult, as they had been doing until now.

From 1639 Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world to try and stay united. This is called the Edo period.

In 1854 the American Navy arrived and made the Emperor agree to trade with them. The Japanese people were cross about this, and it led to the Boshin War, with the shogun resigning and Japan was then ruled by the Emperor Meiji.

Japan became an industrialised world-power and kept invading nearby countries to expand its power. The Emperor Taisho was a bit elderly so they introduced a democracy so that parliament could rule.

In WWI Japan was one of the Allies, but when it invaded Manchuria we all thought that was a bit much, so Japan left the League of Nations and by WWII Japan had flipped and was on the Nazis’ side. They agreed not to fight with Russia, but they invaded China a lot, with the Nanking massacre a particular low point.

They invaded French Indochina to stop France from supplying arms to China, so America stopped sending oil to Japan, so Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and brought the US into WWII.

Russia gave up its treaty not to fight Japan and took Manchuria; meanwhile, America dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered.

The Allies put all the Japanese colonists back in Japan and prosecuted war criminals. Since then Japan has gone all liberal and democratic, and even has a bit in its constitution where it renounced the right to declare war. Imagine if everyone did that.

In 2011 the biggest recorded earthquake in Japan, triggering a tsunami which partly destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Make an origami kimono or an origami crane.

Have a go at sumo wrestling, jujitsu, judo or karate.

Do karaoke!

Here is a list of Japanese games.

Make real sushi or playdough sushi.


11th January

Kagami biraki day in Japan, where Japanese people can break the kagami mochi placed on the deities’ altar because 11 is a lucky number – make mochi;

First recorded lottery in England 1569 – so play Bingo

William Herschel discovers Uranus moons Titania and Oberon

1935 Amelia Earhart flies solo from Hawaii to California.

Birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos (a Puerto Rican who was very influential in Latin America)

Morocco’s Independence Resistance Day – see 18th November

Albania Republic Day


You’re never going to guess what the Albanian for Albania is. Shqipëri. You weren’t even close, were you? But they did used to call themselves Arbëri; both names mean ‘Land of Eagles’ (how lovely).

Albania was once part of the Roman Dalmatia and Macedonia. It remained part of the Byzantine Roman Empire until Slavs overran it and then the Bulgarian Empire took it in the 9th century.

The Principality of Arbër and the Kingdom of Albania formed in the Middle Ages, founded by Progon, but it was dissolved in 1225.

The Ottomans occupied most of Albania by 1431, bringing Islam and forcing many Christians to flee west. In 1443 a revolt broke out, led by Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, and lasted until 1479.

Skanderbeg became Lord of Albania. As the Ottomans intended to use Albania as a springboard to invade Italy and western Europe, Skanderbeg received aid from western countries.

A group of Muslims calling themselves the League of Prizren or the Committee of the Real Muslims formed in 1878 in the name of protecting Muslim land from invasion, and at first the Ottoman Empire supported them until they started to focus on gaining Albanian independence. They requested merging the vilayets (provinces) of Kosovo, Scutari, Monastir and Ioannina into the Albanian Vilayet.

The league was defeated by the Ottomans, but the Albanian uprising of 1912, the Ottoman defeat in the Balkan Wars and the advancing Montenegrin, Serbian and Greek armies into Albanian territories led to the proclamation of independence in 1912.

Well, the Albanian peasants didn’t like this, thinking it was just a ruse by Christian Europe to oppress them, and the newly appointed prince, William of Wied, fled the country.

However, his monarchy wasn’t abolished until 1925, I suppose because WWI got in the way and confused everything.

Then they tried a republic for three years, then tried another monarchy 1928-39. During this period Albania was really getting along with Italy until they invaded, and during WWII Albania was occupied by Italy then Germany.

Italy also invaded Yugoslavia and redistributed the land so that the Albanian bits went to Albania, like Kosovo. A communist army formed to fight against the Nazi occupation, and after the war Albania became a socialist republic under Enver Hoxha.

Albania became agriculturally self-sufficient (kind of…ok, a lot of people were hungry) as land was given to the farmers who worked on it to own as co-operatives. Almost everyone was educated and literate. Incomes increased more than anywhere in Europe. However, there was no religious freedom because everyone had to be atheist.

The People’s Republic was dissolved around 1991 after protests from 1989, and the Republic of Albania was founded. The Communist Party stayed in power somehow after elections, but liberalisation actually made the economy unstable because of Ponzi schemes, etc., and the new Democratic Party took over.

However, an armed rebellion in 1997 made a lot of Albanians emigrate; and when the Kosovo War was happening in Yugoslavia a lot of Kosovo Albanians fled to Albania.

Over a third of Albania is still forest, with lynxes, wolves, bears, boars and chamois. The golden eagle is the country’s national symbol. Nearly 100% of its electricity is made by hydroelectric dams, although recent droughts are ruining that. It exports its own oil and gas.

Tourists can visit a number of national parks and lakes, as well as Gjirokastër, a medieval Ottoman town.

Prithvi Jayanti – Nepal celebrates the birthday of Prithvi Narayan Shah. See 28th May.

11th November

Armistice: Wear a poppy and talk about what it means; make a poppy picture; observe two minutes’ silence. We watch these two sand art/ shadow theatre pieces.


Pocky/Pretz/Pepero Day (Japan and South Korea): you can make your own using this recipe.

1889 Washington State founded: where Starbucks and Microsoft come from.

Angola Independence Day (from Portugal, 1975)

Angola was first inhabited by hunter-gatherers, and then the Bantu people. The Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão arrived in 1484, and the Portuguese soon established forts, settlements and trading posts – mainly for trading in Angolan slaves. Nice.

(to be continued…)

Poland Independence Day (1918)

Karneval/Fasching opens

Maldives Republic Day

11th June

1770 Capt James Cook runs aground on the Great Barrier Reef – there’s an online reef game here, and you could make one out of a fish tank, shells, play dough.

1864 Richard Strauss born – so listen to The Blue Danube

1935 Edwin Armstrong demonstrates FM radio

1936 the International Surrealist Exhibition opens in London – talk about dreams, nightmares and try and draw one

Kamehameha Day: Hawaii celebrates Kamehameha the Great (1758-1819) who united all the islands as one country. Try a Ha’a Koa dance, shell blowing, making a lei or a hula dance. Hawai’i is also famous for killing Captain Cook after he abducted their king as a ransom for a boat they had pinched, and for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour (in Hawaii) which brought the US into WWII.

Prince Henrik’s Birthday (Denmark) –  see 5th June

11th May

1820 Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle launched – so pack up and go on a trek to find something you’ve never seen before – a new plant, animal or stone. Take a photo and find out everything you can about it.

1720 Hieronymus Carl Friedrich Baron von Münchhausen bornso tell some tall stories to each other.

National Technology Day (India) – what technology is in your house that your kids would enjoy learning to use? For starting to use laptops, this typing aid might help:

For smart phone apps, try these:

Minnesota Statehood Day (founded 1858) It’s very Scandinavian, healthy and literate.

Nsiga’a Day (a native people in Canada)

Yom Ha Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day 2016)


According to the Torah, God promised the Land of Israel to the Jews in about the second millenium B.C., but the first kingdom of Israel wasn’t established until the 11th century B.C. In 930 B.C. it split into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Israel was besieged by Assyria, and Judah was conquered by Babylon. However, when Persia conquered Babylon their king, Cyrus the Great, said Jews could continue to practise their religion there

The area then became more Greek, or hellenised, until the Jews revolted in the Maccabean Revolt in 167 B.C. The Roman Empire invaded in 63 B.C. and appointed Herod as king of the vassal Judean state. This led to the Jewish-Roman Wars, where the Jews tried to reclaim their independent state but lost badly, and went from a major population in the Eastern Mediterranean to a scattered and persecuted minority.

In 634 A.D. the area was conquered by Arab Muslims. The next invasion was the Crusades, in 1099. The Byzantine Emperor had asked the Pope to help repel Turks from invading Anatolia (now Turkey), and instead the Pope decided to take Jerusalem back for Christianity – and massacre all the Muslims and Jews we could find.

In 1187 Sultan Saladin reconquered Jerusalem and invited the Jews back to worship there. By the time the Ottoman Empire conquered the area in 1516, there were more than 10,000 Jews living there, many from Spain which had expelled them.

While under Turkish rule more Jews fled there from Eastern European pogroms (violent riots against one race/religious group). It remained under Turkish rule until WWI, when Britain took it and Palestine, and later divided the area with France. We then decided to divide the area into Jewish and Muslim/Arab areas, although at that time Jews only made up 11% of the population. Increasing persecution from Nazis and the rest of Europe brought another quarter of a million Jews – the Arabs revolted but Britain and the Jewish Legion defeated them.

By the end of WWII Jews made up a third of the population of British-owned Palestine. In 1939 Britain tried to impose limits on Jewish immigration to appease the Arabic population but the Jews revolted and began an armed struggle against British rule. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees were fleeing to Palestine and Britain was trying to stop them by putting them in detention camps.

In 1947 the UN decided to replace the British-owned area with an independent Arab state, an independent Jewish state and the City of Jerusalem. The Jews accepted and the Arabs rejected the plan. Then the Arabs attacked the Jews and the Jews fought back, eventually expelling a quarter of a million Arabs as the Palestinian economy collapsed.

Then Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq allied to invade in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. After a year a ceasefire was declared and the Green Line border was established. Jordan took the West Bank and Egypt took the Gaza Strip. More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled by advancing Jewish forces.

By 1958 the Jewish population was 2 million. West Germany offered to pay $1.5 billion in reparations for the Holocaust. In 1950 Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israel’s shipping. Israel joined in a secret alliance with France and Britain to attack Egypt, but the UN made everyone stop.

In 1967 after rising tensions (the Arabs had been trying to divert the Jordan River away from Israel, Egypt had stationed an army on its border and blocked Israel’s access to the Red Sea) Israel attacked Egypt; Jordan, Syria and Iraq joined in the Six-Day War, but Israel gained the upper hand, taking the Gaza Strip,the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and Golan Heights. Then in 1973 the Yom Kippur War began with Egypt and Syria launching a surprise attack on Israeli forces in the newly occupied territories. 35,000 people died but Israel didn’t budge.

Then Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula and they nearly began negotiating about the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Palestinian guerilla fighters bombed them so…everyone went back to fighting. In 1981 Israel even bombed Iran’s nuclear reactor so they couldn’t build a nuclear weapon. From 1987 the Palestinians started an Intifada with violence, demonstrations, economic and cultural protests against Israel, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein launched missile attacks at Israel too. Israel did not respond that time.

In 1992 Israel and Palestine finally agreed to some peace measures, but then a Second Intifada was declared until Israel built a wall across the West Bank and withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah, the anti-Israel Palestinian fighters in Lebanon, and Israel still attack each other.

In 2007 Israel bombed Syria’s nuclear reactor. An offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, then became the governing body of Gaza Strip to fight Israel into returning to its 1967 borders, and the two still attack each other to this day.