15th January

Makar Sankranti (2017)

This is a Hindu harvest festival in India, and also marks the first day of spring.

The British Museum first opened (1759) – so visit a local  museum

Coca Cola (or the Pemberton Medicine Company) first incorporated 1889 – try baking a cola cake

The rules of basketball first published by its inventor James Naismith 1892 – play basketball;

The first Superbowl is played 1967 so play American football; you just need a cycle helmet, black marks under your eyes and socks for shoulder pads and some basic understanding of the rules (Superbowl party ideas here)

Martin Luther King, Jr born 1929

Korean Alphabet Day – so write your name in Korean

John Chilembwe Day (Malawi – see 6th July)

15th December

1970 Soviet Venera lands on Venus

Alderney Homecoming [of WII evacuees] Day

Netherlands Kingdom Day


The Netherlands’ unofficial name is Holland, although that’s actually only the name of two of its counties, but those counties were so famous in the 17th century that their name is more widely known. The people are the Dutch. It’s ridiculous.

250,000 years ago Neanderthals arrived in the higher-up parts of the Netherlands. The oldest canoe ever found came from Mesolithic tribes here in 8,000 A.D.

Around 650 B.C. Germanic tribes arrived from the North. Some of these would become early Saxons, Franks and Celts.

Part of the area was conquered by Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars around 57 B.C. After the Romans left, the southern Netherlands became the Frankish Kingdom ruled by Clovis I. The people spoke Old Frankish, which eventually became Dutch, while the language of the Franks living to the north became French.


Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisii moved into land that was previously abandoned. Some moved into England and became the Anglo-Saxons. About 500,00 people still speak Frisian in this area – it’s the closest language to English…. particularly the English spoken in Great Yarmouth (not even a joke!).

The Frankish Carolingian (i.e., ruled by Charles the Great and his increasingly not-as-good heirs, up to Charles the Fat) Empire ruled most of Western Europe, and when it split the Netherlands was in Middle Francia. This was quite weak and was always being reshaped or being invaded by Vikings.

Around 1100 tradesmen and farmers began draining Holland’s swampy marshes and turned it into a place of power. In the 15th century Amsterdam became the main trading place for grain in Europe.

Charles V united the Netherlands, Belgium and bits of France and Germany into his land along with the whole of Spain. This led to the Eighty Years’ War as they all tried to get their independence again. In 1579 in the Union of Utrecht the northern half of the Netherlands swore to join together against France. Elizabeth I sent a British army to help.

After regaining their independence they formed a confederation of states, and in the 17th century the Dutch Empire became one of the world’s major powers. They settled New York (which they called New Amsterdam) in 1614.

The Netherlands became the first capitalist country in the world, with the first full-time stock exchange, inventing insurance and retirement funds and the world’s first economic bubble when everyone went mad for tulips, and the world’s first ‘bear raider’, a trader who made everyone lower their prices by dumping his own stock, then buying everyone else’s at the new discount.

After France’s revolution, the Netherlands had its own and declared itself the Batavian Republic – its ruler, William V of Orange, fled to England.

(to be continued ….)

It’s famous for tulips, windmills, clogs, Delft Blue pottery, canals, the Dutch Masters, bicycles and the ice-skating tour. Find out more here.

Zamenhof Day (creator of Esperanto)

Bonaire Kingdom Day

15th September

1254 Marco Polo born – so go exploring:



Battle of Britain Day

National Hispanic Heritage Month starts in US

Costa Rica/El Salvador/Guatemala (20th October) /Honduras/ Nicaragua (19th July) Independence Days (from Spain, 1821)

Costa Rica means Rich Coast, and it was first inhabited by hunter-gatherer tribes about 10,000 years ago, and when Colombus sailed past in 1502 he reported the natives wore vast quantities of gold jewellery.

A Spanish conquistador landed in 1522. But despite its name, and because Spain forbid it from trading with nearby islands that belonged to other empires, Costa Rica actually became one of the poorest Spanish colonies.

The Spanish Constitution of 1812 made Costa Rica an autonomous province, but clearly news didn’t get through as Costa Rica celebrates its Independence Day after Guatemala declared all of South America independent in 1821.

Costa Rica has had a more peaceful independence than most of South America, with the exception of a 44-day civll war in 1948 that left 2,000 dead. After that Costa Rica abolished its military, just to be safe.

Costa Rica is famous for its mysterious prehistoric stone spheres:

They have the world’s oldest men – i.e., they live the longest, and rank number 1 on the Happy Planet Index, meaning they live happily without destroying the planet too much. They say ‘pura vida’ – pure life – as ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.

El Salvador means The Saviour, i.e., Jesus.

It was originally inhabited by Native American Lenca people, then the Olmecs who left great pyramids behind, then the Mayans, who were chased out by the eruption of the supervolcano Ilopango. These were followed by the Pipil people, whose word for El Salvador, Kuskatan, eventually became the word used to describe people from El Salvador, Cuzcatlecos.

Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado arrived in 1524 after Spain conquered Mexico. But the Cuzcatlan soldiers were ready and chased them off. When Pedro sent Mexican messengers to ask them to return the weapons they’d stolen and to surrender to the Spanish crown, the reply was “If you want your weapons, come get them.”

But the Pipil people were weakened by smallpox and El Salvador was conquered in 1525. But a Lenca princess, Antu Silan Ulap I, raised armed resistance and managed to destroy the first Spanish garrison of San Miguel. For 10 years the Lencas kept the Spanish out, but they eventually returned with enough soldiers to chase the Lencas into the moutains.

In 1821, after several independence movements, Spain granted independence to their Central American colonies. El Salvador became part of the First Mexican Empire, then the Republic of Central America, then had a load of juntas and coups, then had a civil war 1979-92.

El Salvador has over 20 volcanoes and a history of very destructive earthquakes. It also suffers from severe droughts leading to famine, and severe rains that cause flooding and landslides. Due to climate change it also gets more hurricanes than it ever used to.


Honduras was originally inhabited by Mesoamerican people, especially the Mayans.

In 1524 the Spanish arrived, led by Hernan Cortes, and eventually conquered it, making it part of their Kingdom of Guatemala. Spain made the Honduras people work in silver mines, and when they refused or fell ill, imported African slaves to do it instead.

Honduras gained its independence in 1821. By 1904 it was called the ‘Banana Republic’ as it had so may companies exporting fruit.

In 1969 Honduras’s former president blamed the country’s economic problems on immigrants from El Salvador. The two countries then had a ‘friendly’ football match before a World Cup Game and somehow this escalated into a full-blown war, called the Football War.

It has the highest homicide rate in the world. Velasquez came from Honduras – he painted this:

Honduras people say they have an annual rain of fish, called the Lluvia de Peces. They have a really miserable legend called La Llorona, a Weeping Woman who drowned her children in revenge for her husband taking a younger mistress, then drowning herself. Turned away from Heaven, she wanders around trying to drown living children to swap for her own children’s souls.

Mooncake Festival (2016): Parade with lanterns and masks; mooncakes. Tell the story of the Jade Rabbit.


15th July

St Swithin’s Day (if it rains today, it will rain for 40 more days) – so make a rain gauge, or rain in a jar:

and the less scientific:

1606 Rembrandt born

1858 Emmeline Pankhurst born

Brunei Sultan’s Birthday

15th June

1752 Benjamin Franklin proves lightning is electricity – there’s a Disney film (20mins) about him here.

1878 Eadweard Muybridge photographs a horse running, showing all its feet leaving the ground


2012 Nik Wallenda tightrope-walks over Niagara Falls

Global Wind (Energy) Day – so build a wind turbine.

Other events today:

Day of Valdemar and Reunion day (Denmark – celebrates Valdemar II’s victory against Estonia in 1219, when Denmark’s flag fell from the skies. Also in 1920 Sønderjylland was reunited with the rest of Denmark.) See 5th June.

Arkansas Statehood Day: Johnny Cash was from here.

15th May

1928 Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon, Plane Crazy


2010 Jessica Watson sails around the world nonstop and unassisted


1856 L. Frank Baum born, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


Paraguay Independence Day (from Spain, 1811).

Spanish explorers first arrived in 1516; before then the people were nomadic warriors. It became a missionary centre: the deal was, you sought refuge with the Jesuits, and then they protected you from becoming a Spanish slave so long as you converted to Christianity.

After Paraguay overthrew the Spanish control, José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia ruled until his death, forbidding colonialists from marrying each other so that the society became more mixed race (called mestizo). He also totally shut the borders, North Korea style, which is why Paraguay is called an ‘island surrounded by land’.

A couple more dictators followed, and one, Francisco Solano Lopez, went to war against Argentia, Brazil and Uruguay. No one’s quite sure why the war started, but it was probably to gain land and resources. Anyway, Paraguay was basically obliterated, losing 60% of its population.

From then on they were really unstable and no president stayed in power for very long until Alfredo Stroessner, who kept power for three decades. He was good for the economy, but he did tend to torture and kill people who disagreed with him.

Paraguay has the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam, which produces nearly all of its electricity. However, only 9.5% of its population use electricity. Only 2.5% have clean drinking water.

Almost everyone speaks Guarani, which is very rare for a Spanish colony to have kept its native language. It’s onomatopoeic, so words sound like the things they describe.

Nanduti lace is inspired by spider webs. Music includes polkas, bouncy galopas, and guaranías.