18th September

1809 London’s Royal Opera House opens

1928 Juan de la Cierva makes the first autogyro crossing of the English Channel

1709 Samuel Johnson (wrote the first English dictionary) born

1819 Leon Foucault (inventor of the Foucault pendulum) born

Azerbaijan Day of National Music – see 17th November

Chile Independence Day (Dieciocho)

Native Americans moved to Chile about 10,000 years ago. They became the Mapuche people, who resisted Inca invasions.

In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Strait of Magellan through Chile. Spain came to conquer them in 1540, but the Mapuches weren’t having it. In fact, Spain abolished slavery after realising it just made the Mapuche people angrier. However Spain eventually succeeded, and by 1778 73% of the population was European.

In 1808 Napoleon decided France had Spain now and put his brother Joseph on the throne. Not all of Spain agreed and Chile definitely didn’t and declared itself independent on 18th September 1810. Spain tried to take Chile back in the Reconquista but by 1818 Chile had won.

From 1972 they had a socialist government which increased nationalised industry and employment, but a year later inflation was out of control because they had funded the socialist changes by printing money. A military coup took over, led by General Pinochet and helped by America. Around 40,000 people were then tortured, imprisoned or killed for political reasons. Eight years later he lost his presidential role in a democratic election.

In 2010 Chile had a huge earthquake, but also made international news for rescuing 33 miners who were trapped in a shaft for 17 days.

Chile’s national animal is the condor. The national dance is the cueca. Chile is most famous for Easter Island.

 

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18th July

Uruguay Constitution Day:

The Portuguese discovered Uruguay in 1512. Before then there were only the nomadic Charrua, who were driven there by the Guarani from the north about 4,000 years ago.

The Spanish arrived in 1516. The Charrua killed one of the Spanish explorers the year before, and their fierceness combined with the lack of treasure in Uruguay meant no one fancied settling there until 1603 when Spain introduced cattle.

Then the British, Spanish and Portuguese fought over it – Spain mostly won but in 1806-7 Britain did manage to seize the capital, Montevideo, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (that sounds like a tenuous excuse).

In 1811 José Gervasio Artigas revolted against the Spanish authorities and defeated them.

A new government was formed in Buenos Aires, and Artigas said every area should have its own political and economic autonomy, particularly east of the river Uruguay in the Banda Oriental.

The new government ignored him, so he broke with Buenos Aires and seized Montevideo. Artigas organised a Liga Federal of six states (four of which became part of Argentina).

In 1816 the Portuguese invaded from Brazil and took Montevideo the next year.

Brazil became independent in 1822, and three years later the Thirty-Three Orientals, a revolutionary group led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, declared independence, fought for 500 days about it, and eventually Britain got involved and negotiated independence for them on 18 July 1830.

A year later, Bernabé Rivera, the nephew of the new president Fructuosa Rivera, invited the remaining Charrua people (remember them?) to meet him, then killed all the men and enslaved the women and children. Nice.

A couple more massacres later and there were only four Charruas left: they were taken to France to be shown off like a circus act, and they all died, including a baby that was born to them on the journey. There is a monument to them in Montevideo called Los Últimos Charrúas.

Then Uruguay became split between two political parties: the Blancos, who were conservative farmer types, and the Colorados, who were liberal business types.

Oribe.

In 1838 the Colorados led an army and overthrew the Blanco president, Manuel Oribe. He fled to Argentina, ruled by Manuel de Rosas.

Rosas.

So then Colorados leader Fructuosa Rivera declared war on Rosas (not sure I entirely understand why). The war lasted 13 years and is called the Guerra Grande, or Great War.

In 1843 Argentina started trying to take Montevideo in a siege that lasted 9 years and ended up involving Italian and French troops on Uruguay’s side.

In 1849 Britain and France negotiated in favour of Rosas.

Eventually Oribe was defeated when there was an uprising against Rosas by his own people and also Brazil got involved on the Colorados’ side.

In 1865, the emperor of Brazil, the Argentinian president and the Uruguay (Colorado) president formed a Triple Alliance and went to war on Paraguay. No reason given.The Paraguayans call this one the Guerra Grande because it devastated them.

Then followed the usual list of insurrections, military rule, coups, and some nice presidents; they jumped in at the end of WWII with the rest of the Americas; in the late 1950s there was an economic dip which led to everyone getting a bit violent, and by 1973 the country was under oppressive military rule for 12 years. In 1984 they went back to democracy.

Now Uruguay is top in Latin America for democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, and top in South America when it comes to press freedom, prosperity and security. It also supplies more troops to the UN than anyone else in the world. It has recently legalised cannabis, same-sex marriage and abortion, making it one of the most liberal nations in the world.

Activities: Play football, or make a sand sculpture:

 

Nelson Mandela Day
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) campaigned against the apartheid in South Africa. In 1962 he was imprisoned for trying to overthrow the state and served 27 years. In 1994 he became South Africa’s first black President. He didn’t stand for a second term and instead set up the Nelson Mandela Foundation to combat poverty and HIV.

18th June

Father’s Day (2017)

Try these card ideas or these present ideas.

 

Evacuation Day (Egypt celebrates withdrawal of British troops in 1956 after the Suez Crisis)

Waterloo Day (British Wellington and Prussian Bluecher defeat Napoleon in 1815)

Seychelles National Day:

Under French control from 1756 and named after Jean Moreau de Sechelles, the Minister of Finance for Louis XV, until 1810 when Mauritius was captured by the British. The Brits did away with slavery and compensation was paid to owners of sugarcane plantations. Just like the French, the British used the islands for keeping prisoners.

In 1964 the Seychelles People’s United Party started to petition for independence from UK. Independence was achieved in 1976 but Seychelles was turned to a one-party state after a 1977 coup.

In 1991 the constitution changed to allow other political parties and in 1993 the first ever multiparty legislative and presidential elections were staged in July.

The Seychelles is home to some very rare animals and plants. Some children may be interested in the Coco de Mer, known in French as coco fesses – or the buttocks coconut. Brilliant.

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The jellyfish tree, the paradise flycatcher,

the world’s smallest frog,

the world’s largest land tortoise

and the rare black parrot are all pretty cool too. This may be good for a colouring-in activity or pretending to be different animals. Try a sega dance or a moutya dance.

18th May

Somalia Independence Day:

In antiquity Somalia might have been the fabled Land of Punt, an exporter of valuable goods that traded with ancient Egypt. In the late 19th century Britain and Italy owned parts of ‘Somaliland’.

From 1941 it was run by the British military, then it gained its independence in 1960. From 1969 it became the Somali Democratic Republic (a Communist state) but since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1990 there has been no central government control over the country. It is the world’s major exporter of frankincense and myrrh.

Activities: The Las Gaal Cultural Complex has beautiful cave paintings. Its early civilisation used a writing system that is still undecoded. Play at being a port exporting valuable goods, with haggling, lost ships and pirates. Ancient Somalis were the guys who domesticated the camel. Wrap scarves around your heads, build a portable den, and play at being nomads. Mum – you know you’re the camel. Write in code. Make your own incense.

International Museum Day – so visit a local museum

Victoria Day (2015; Canada celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday. Still.)

18th January

1882 A.A. Milne born – so read Winnie the Pooh

1884 Arthur Ransome born, author of Swallows and Amazons

1778 James Cook discovers the Hawaiian Islands and names them the Sandwich Islands, I kid you not. See 11th June.

1788 Britain sends its first lot of convicts to Australia

1886 modern field hockey is founded with the Hockey Association – we use spatulas for hockey sticks

1997 Boerge Ousland of Norway is the first person to cross the Antarctic alone

2005 the Airbus is unveiled in France – we love this Lego Airbus.

Tunisia Revolution Day – see 25th June.

18th December

Christmas Jumper Day (2015, Save the Children UK)

1892 the Nutcracker premiers

1793 HMS Lutine sinks full of gold

1912 Piltdown Man announced

Niger Republic Day

Qatar National Day

UN Arabic Language Day;

New Jersey founded 1787: had the world’s first organised baseball game, drive-in movie, the first movie (by Edison), submarine, condensed soup, robots to replace workers, salt taffee, the first town to be lighted by electricity.

18th November

1307 William Tell shoots an apple off his son’s head

 

1928 short Steamboat Willie and Mickey Mouse’s birthday – find Mickey-Mouse-themed lunch ideas here.

 

2013 MAVEN probe sent to Mars

 

Latvian Independence Day: (from Russia, 1918)

Latvia had important access to the Baltic ports, which meant it tended to be attacked by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Sweden and Russia who all wanted it too.

From 1611 it was owned by Sweden, who were generally rather nice as you might expect of Swedes, the main change being that peasants started being educated.

Then it was taken into the Russian Empire, who also took all of its industry into Russia proper, until WWI , when Latvia became independent.

In 1939 Soviet Russia took Latvia into its protection, if it could be called that, replacing civil servants with Soviet Russians and deporting/killing thousands just in case.

In 1940 Latvia became part of the Soviet Union, and during WWII Nazi Germany took bits too. Post-war it was back to Soviet Russia, with all the deportations and repression that entailed.

In 1989-90 the USSR realised it wasn’t welcome and Latvia became independent again.

Latvia’s most popular sport is ice hockey. While they are a Christian country, they have a particular Latvian paganism called Romuva, and its followers are the Dievturiba, the Godskeepers.

You could tell stories from their folklore. They export a great deal of amber so you can talk about how that’s made. They invented the Namejs style of ring, as well as the Lielvarde belt whose symbols are said to explain the cosmos. You could try their sorrel soup.

 

Morocco Fete de l’Independance (Independence Day):

From the 6th century B.C. Phoenicians (Jewish traders in a purple dye from the Murex snail; they spread the use of the alphabet) settled and traded with Morocco.

From the 1st century B.C. it was part of the Roman Empire called Mauretania Tingitana (awesome name).

From the 6th century it was part of Byzantium. Umayyad Muslims from Damascus (in Syria) conquered Morocco; followed by a man named Idris, who formed the Idrisid dynasty and made Morocco a centre of Muslim learning.

Berber dynasties followed, and a bunch that claimed to be descendants from Mohammed, until in 1666 the Alouite dynasty united the country and still rule today.

Weirdly Morocco was the first country ever to recognise the US. From 1860 France and Spain started taking bits, and Moroccans fought for both countries in WWI and WWII, but after France exiled their sultan and replaced him with an unpopular one, Morocco really wanted independence; it gained this in 1956.

Spain left their bit of the Sahara but Algeria and the Polisarios (Spanish settlers) fought Morocco for it.

It’s still not really calmed down but there’s been a ceasefire since 1991. Cook some Moroccan food or make a little fez for a teddy bear. Try Andalusian classical music like Ziryab’s, or chaabi bands.

 

Also today:

  • Battle of Vertièrés Day (Haiti, 1803)
  • Oman National Day
  • Chinita’s Fair (Venezuela)