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 March

Mothering Sunday (UK 2018): Originally this was the day you sent your servants home to their families so they could visit their mother church, but now it’s just our Mother’s Day. You’ll be wanting this Pinterest page. I like to have a nice walk somewhere pretty followed by afternoon tea on my Mother’s Day.

1819 Henry Tate born (so try a Tate&Lyle recipe or make a miniature Tate Gallery by hanging tiny print-outs of your child’s artwork or masterpieces along a shelf so the dolls can view it):



Jonny Appleseed Day – so watch the Disney legend about the man who brought apple trees to America; try counting and growing apple seeds, or apple star prints:

Moshoeshoe Day (chief of Lesotho, 1786-1870)


Lithuania Restoration of Independence Day (1990)

Lithuania is the geographic centre of Europe (based on its shape’s centre of gravity – nerd fact!).

Lithuania was first settled around 10,000 B.C. by Baltic tribes. Mindaugas united all the tribes for the first time, and was crowned King of Lithuania on 6 July 1253.

Pagan Lithuania became a target of the Christian crusades.

By the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had expanded to include Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and parts of Estonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine, and was the largest state in Europe. In 1385, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jogaila, became king of Poland.

In 1410 Lithuania and Poland defeated the crusading (German/Prussian) Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald, one of the biggest battles in medieval Europe. They then fought the Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars, in which the Grand Duchy of Moscow took a lot of its land back from Lithuania, and the Livonian War (for Livonia. Everyone wanted Livonia, for some reason.)

In 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was created.

Sweden devastated Lithuania in the Northern Wars (1655-61) and then the Great Northern War (1700-21, Russia, Denmark-Norway, Saxony-Poland-Lithuania against Sweden. Sweden lost.) ruined them a bit too. These wars plus a plague and a famine, classic combo, killed off 40% of the population.

From 1772 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was ‘partitioned’ by Russia, Prussia and Austria, actually eliminating Poland entirely for more than a century. Lithuania mainly became Russian.

After the Russo-Turkish war, Russia decided Germany was its enemy and began to build fortresses, including a huge one in Lithuania called the Kaunas Fortress.

On 16 February 1918 Lithuania declared itself independent, but its former friend Poland took a chunk of it, including its capital Vilnius! Germany also took Klaipeda, with Lithuania’s only access to the Baltic, Memel port.

Russia invaded Poland in 1939 and gave Vilnius back to Lithuania….but then it also annexed Lithuania. In WWII they were occupied by Nazis, who killed 190,000 Lithuanian Jews in the Holocaust. After WWII Germany had to give Klaipeda back.

As a Soviet state after WWII, a lot of Lithuanians were deported to Siberia to work. Lithuania was the first state to declare independence, on 11 March 1990. They became part of the EU in 2007.

Lithuania is actually really well developed, with Europe’s fastest internet speeds, 100% of houses connected to fibre optic broadband, and loads of railways, airports and four-lane motorways.

Activities: Because they’re on the Baltic, learn about amber.

The most famous Lithuanian composer is Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Their national sport is basketball.

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