17th June

Father’s Day (2018)

Try these card ideas or these present ideas.

Statue of Liberty arrives in New York 1885

1898 M.C. Escher born

1903 Ruth Graves Wakefield invents the chocolate chip cookie

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Iceland National Day: Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, with the world’s most northern capital.

It was first populated from 874 A.D. by Norsemen and their Gaelic thralls (slaves).

Before then it may have been the home to some Celtic monks from Scotland and Ireland.

In the Middle Ages it mainly belonged to Norway, and was very poor, the climate being too harsh for much agriculture.

In 1783 the Laki volcano made the world’s biggest volcanic eruption; the ensuing sulphuric gases killed off a lot of farmland and livestock, and many died in the famine.

From 1814 Norway and Denmark were no longer united and Iceland became part of Denmark; meanwhile many moved to the New World as Iceland was still too bloomin’ cold.

During WWII Iceland stayed neutral, but for some reason Britain invaded (perhaps because Germany had invaded Denmark and Britain thought Iceland would be next) and then America did. America stayed throughout the Cold War (i.e., until 1990!) just in case.

Thanks to US financial aid (the Marshall Plan) Iceland’s fishing industry expanded and its economy grew; then its economy switched to finance and banking, which unfortunately ruined its economy from 2008 when all three of its major banks collapsed after running up huge debts.

They eat a lot of fish pickled in brine or smoked meat, particularly lamb. Play a magnetic fishing game – maybe cover it in crushed ice first to make it more authentic.

Make a snúður or a skúffukaka (kinds of cake).

Make a volcano – just drop a Mento in a Cola bottle. Listen to Bjork.

National Juggling Day: So learn to juggle.

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

17th March

St Patrick’s Day:

We made a treasure hunt hiding gold foil-wrapped sweets at the bottom of paper rainbows blue-tacked around the house.

We built a leprechaun trap and eat green pea soup  with fruit rainbows and ice cream for pudding. Learn about the order of colours in a rainbow, where Ireland is, about the folklore of leprechauns and a bit of Irish dancing for good measure.

Or make a density rainbow:

17th January

1912 Captain Robert Falcon Scott reaches the South Pole only to find the Norwegians had beaten him to it. On the way home he and his team will die of extreme cold and exhaustion.


Popeye first appears in comic 1929.

1706 Benjamin Franklin born, inventor of the lightning rod, the glass armonica (so try playing on glasses), cooling by evaporation and the idea of paying it forward, being nice to people so they are in a better mood to be nice to others, and many more firsts and ideas.

Minorca’s National Day

Celebrating the day Alfonso III (King of Aragon, Spain) conquered Minorca while it was being ruled by Arabs and sold the Muslims into slavery if they didn’t convert to Christianity.

During the 16th century Turks invaded and settled, and in the 18th century Britain repeatedly invaded until Spain booted us out once and for all in 1802.

Make carquinyolis (like biscotti), pastissets (flower-shaped cookies), flao (a sweet cheese pasty), panellets (almondy sweets served on All Saints’ Day), stuffed aubergine (Minorcans even have aubergine for dessert).

Patras Carnival

Begins in Greece, where they all dress up and go on a treasure hunt. So do a treasure hunt. In January in the UK, holly berries, willow tree buds (fluffy and white like rabbit paws), hazel catkins, viburnum flowers, winter jasmine flowers are all lovely treasure to find on a morning walk. Here’s a treasure chest to make yourself at Dollshouse Miniature Printables.

Congo National Heroes Day – see 30th June

17th December

Bhutan National Day

First performance of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony 1865

First day of Saturnalia.

Anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers 1903 (and Wright Brothers Day in the US)

17th November

Queen Elizabeth I acceded the throne in 1558

Freedom and Democracy Day (Czech Republic, Slovakia)

National Revival (Azerbaijan):

Azerbaijan means ‘Guardian of Fire’ in Persian. It has world-famous petroglyphs in Gobustan – can your children make some rock carvings?


Azerbaijan has been part of the Scythian, Iranian Medes, Achaemenids and Alexander the Great’s empires. It was the first Muslim country in the world to allow operas and theatres and to give women the vote.

It became part of the Russian empire in 1813 until that collapsed after World War I; then it became the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. But in 1920 Soviet Russia decided they needed Azerbaijan for Baku (its capital)’s oil and so Azerbaijan was independent for fewer than two years! Baku supplied most of Russia’s energy in WWII. When Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Azerbaijan declared its independence.

Azerbaijan music is called monody, mugham, meykhana and ashiq art, and they often play the saz. They hosted the 2012 Eurovision after winning 2011. Azerbaijani national dance is quite fun. The Azerbaijani carpet – try some weaving. A very Azerbaijanian meal would be pilaf with black tea to drink. Favourite games are football, wrestling, chess and backgammon.

17th July

1717 Handel’s Water Music premiers, while George I sails on a boat with 50 musicians down river Thames

1955 Disneyland (California) opens

Slovakia Independence Day:

Humans have lived in Slovakia since at least 270,000 B.C.

Before the Slavic tribes arrived in the 5th century, Rome had outposts here and the Huns launched invasions into Western Europe from here. The Slavs revolted against the Huns, led by Samo.

Mojmir I

In 833 Samo’s empire combined with the Moravian Empire, which was created by Mojmir I uniting the Slavic tribes north of the Danube a couple of years earlier.

Saints Cyril and Methodius arrived in 863, inventing the earliest Slav alphabet, a predecessor of Cyrillic, so they could spread Christian texs.

King Ratislav gave the Principality of Nitra to his nephew Svatopluk, but he allied with the Franks and overthrew his uncle by way of thanks. He expanded the Moravian Empire to include most of Hungary, lower Austria, Silesia, Bohemia, Lusatia, southern Poland and northern Serbia.

His two sons became kings of Moravia and Nitra, but they quarreled and Moravia lost a lot of its territory while they were mucking about. From the 10th century, Hungary owned Slovakia.

Ferdinand I

Pressburg became Hungary’s capital in 1536, but the Ottoman wars and insurrections against the Hapsburg monarchy (Archduke Ferdinand the original, the First, was then king of Hungary and Bohemia; but he was governed by the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria).

Eventually, in the late 17th century, the Turks gave up, and Hungary moved the capital to Buda in 1848.

At this point there were serious uprisings against the Hapsburg monarchy, when Slovakia took Austria’s side in the hope that they would grant them independence from Hungary in return (nope).

They finally separated after WWI, when Slovakia became part of Czechoslovakia instead. Czechoslovakia was nice to its minorities, including some Germans and Hungarians who found themselves within its new borders, and kept its democracy while all around it dictators ruled.

Hitler did not like that Czechoslovakia had German-speaking people, and so both countries agreed that Nazi Germany could take the Sudetenland.

Meanwhile Hungary took back the Hungarian-speaking parts in southern and eastern Slovakia.

Then Hitler threatened to take the rest of Slovakia unless it declared independence from Czechoslovakia and allied itself with Nazi Germany.

Jozeph Tiso

Because of this alliance, under the first Slovakian Republic, 83% of Slovakian Jews were murdered. The Republic’s leader, Jozeph Tiso, was somehow persuaded to pay Hitler to do away with these Jews. Doesn’t look good, does it?

In 1944 Slovaks finally got their act together and led the Slovak National Uprising against the Nazis, and Soviet Russia and Romania liberated them from the consequent German occupation the next year. Czechoslovakia was put back together and Tiso was hanged for his part in the events.

To stop Czechoslovakia falling apart again, the Allies insisted that all Germans and Hungarians be expelled.

Czechoslovakia (I wish I didn’t have to write that word so many times) came under Soviet Russia’s Warsaw Pact, when several eastern European countries banded together to defend themselves against America during the Cold War.

In 1969, a crazy year around the whole world for big changes, Czechoslovakia became a federation of the Czech and Slovak Socialist Republics.

In 1989 peaceful protests led to the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia in what is known as the Velvet Revolution, and the federation became the independent Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 (this bit is sometimes called the Velvet Divorce).

Both countries cooperate with Hungary and Poland in the Visegrad Group, who help each other’s economy, military and energy.

Slovakia has a very cool landscape full of mountains and caves.

South Korea Constitution Day

Up to the beginning of the 20th century, Korea always tried to stay out of the West’s way, and so was known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’. In 1910 Japan took Korea and ruled it by force for 35 years.

After World War II, Japan surrendered to the Allies and Korea was divided between Russia and America. North Korea was, of course, the Russian side.

Russia and America withdrew and tried to allow the two sides to govern themselves again – except the country had now been artificially divided and the North thought it should rule the South and the South thought it should rule the North.

In 1950, after North Korea had repeatedly asked Russia “Can we invade yet? Can we invade yet? Can we invade yet?”, it began the Korean War with Russian and Chinese support. America, etc., supported South Korea.

In 1953, after 2 million had died, an armistice was declared, but it was not until 2007 that both sides agreed that the war was officially over.

After that South Korea actually hasn’t done much better, in terms of being run by madmen, than North Korea. Corrupt presidents, military coups, dictators, etc… In 1979 a miltary dictator closed down the universities and the free press, and violently suppressed any protests, including torturing a student to death.

South Korea is ten times more densely populated than the global average, and 99% of the population are Korean – they even call themselves a ‘single-race society’.

A Korean instrument is the gayageum; but its music isn’t as famous as Psy’s….Their national sport is taekwondo. Popular food includes bibimbap and kimchi.

Galla Bayramy (2016, Turkmenistan celebrates wheat harvest, 3rd Sunday in July)

Also today:

  • King Letsie III’s Birthday (Lesotho)