1st May

May Day:

Make a maypole:



Or a mini maypole:



Crown a May queen:


or make a Green Man:


Make May baskets and deliver them secretly to neighbours:





1785 Kingdom of Hawai’i’ formed, so make a lei for Lei Day


1840 Penny Black, the first official stamp, released


1930 Pluto, dwarf planet, named


1931 Empire State Building dedicated


Festa Dei Serpari (Cocullo, Italy, celebrates its patron saint St Dominick by catching snakes, removing their fangs then using them like tinsel decorations on statues of saints).

Other events today:

  • 1948 North Korea established – see 27th December
  • Kazakhstan People’s Unity Day – see 30th August
  • Latvia Constitution Day – see 18th November
  • Marshall Islands Constitution Day
  • Dia del Trabajo (Day of the Worker, Latin America)
  • 1328 Scotland gains independence from England – see 30th November
  • 1707 Scotland and England join up again into Britain
  • 1786 Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro first performed

1st March

St David’s Day (Wales):

Make daffodils out of egg cartons:

daffodil lollipops:

daffodil candy cups:

daffodil windmills:

daffodil cupcakes:

Or try some St David’s Day Welsh food, like Glamorgan sausages:

and Welsh cakes:

Eat them up with Welsh love spoons:

A bit about Wales: it has been inhabited for at least 29,000 years. About 12,000 years ago, in the last Ice Age, when sea levels were lower, hunter-gatherers could just walk from Europe to the UK across Doggerland, a piece of land now under the North Sea. The last glacier in Wales melted away about 10,000 years ago, and the rising sea separated it from Ireland. 8,000 years ago Britain became an island.

Eventually the Stone Age people became Bronze Age people, and then Iron Age Celts. The Romans arrived in A.D. 48 and stayed for 300 years, extracting gold, copper and lead but not really ever being allowed to Romanise the people as they did in England.

In 383 A.D. a Roman general called Magnus Maximus left Britain with all of its troops and governors, planning to rule as Emperor from Gaul. As he left he bestowed ruling power on local authorities, and so he is seen as one of the Welsh founding fathers for appointing local people the power to rule Wales. I think….

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Romano-Britons formed little kingdoms which fought with each other to define their boundaries. In the 8th century King Offa built Offa’s Dyke which still roughly separates Wales from England.

In 853 the Vikings raided the island of Anglesey but the king of Gwynedd defeated them, allied with them and invaded the north of Wales with them.

In the 11th century Gruffydd ap Llewellyn became the only Welsh king ever to rule over the entire territory of Wales. Then William the Conqueror took England, and gave lords with their own ruling laws reign over the area near Wales – this was called the Welsh Marches.

Llewellyn Fawr became the first Prince of Wales following the Magna Carta in 1215, but in 1282 Edward I invaded and the Welsh princes ended with Llewellyn’s head being carried through London on a spear. Under Henry VIII Wales became part of the UK.

In the Industrial Revolution Wales became a centre for copper mining and iron smelting – Parys Mountain in Anglesey had the world’s biggest copper mine. Later slate quarrying and coal mining became successful. Just before the First World War, Wales was at its peak coal production, exporting millions of tons a year. In WWII 10% of all young male conscripts were sent into the coal mines – they became known as the Bevin Boys.

In 1925 the political party Plaid Cymru was formed, seeking independence from the UK. In 1955 Cardiff became Wales’ capital city. In 1965, despite 34 out of 35 Welsh MPs voting against it, a Welsh village was flooded to make a reservoir for Liverpool, because there were simply more English MPs who voted for it. In 1997 the Welsh National Assembly was set up to decide how Wales’s budget is run. Wales defines itself as a country, although Prince Charles’s title of Prince of Wales suggests it is really a principality.

Read Celtic myths or the Mabinogian; play rugby!



Martenitsa (Bulgaria): On 1 March, Bulgarians celebrate Baba Marta Day. Baba Marta is a mythical old woman whose moods affect the weather in March. They make martenitisi and give them away to friends and family.

They tie them round their wrists as a symbol of good fortune, health and prosperity. When they see a tree in blossom, or a stork or swallow, they remove the bracelet and put it on the tree or under a stone. The wearing of the bracelet is also supposed to be a wish for spring, to make winter pass more quickly.

Romanians celebrate Martisor in a similar way, with red and white or black and white bracelets that they wear for the first 12 days of the month to represent prosperity for the next 12 months. They often have little talismans tied onto them to represent what they want in the year ahead. They also make a Martisor tort.


1810 Frederick Chopin born – here’s a beginner’s guide.


National Pig Day (US): Make a piggy bank:

or learn about the Three Little Pigs:


Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Iceland’s Beer Day – see 17th June
  • Bosnia-Herz Independence Day – see 25th November
  • S. Korea 1 March Movement Day (celebrates resistance to Japanese occupation) – see 17th July.

1st February

1709 Alexander Selkirk is rescued from a desert island and inspires Robinson Crusoe (age 14+ but try a graphic novel)

1893 Edison finishes building the Black Maria movie studio, so make your own film studio. Give a kid a camera and help them make a play with their toys.

First day of Quebec Winter Carnival, with sledging, ice castles, ice canoeing, etc.

It’s the first day of National Bird Feeding Month – see 5th Jan for ideas.

Malaysia Federal Territory Day:

The first Malaysians were Negritos, a Southeast Asian people found to be the people most genetically different from Africans.

Trade and settlers came from India and China, bringing Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the 2nd century the north was the kingdom of Langkasuka; in the 7th-13th centuries the south was the sea-ruling Srivijara empire.

Islam came from the 14th century, and in the 16th an independent Malacca state was ruled by a former prince of the Srivijara.

In 1511 Malacca was conquered by Portugal, then the Dutch. In 1786 the British East India Co. was given Penang, then we gradually took the rest with gentlemen’s agreements where the British ‘advised’ the rulers, who had to follow the advice because of treaties.

In WWII Japan invaded, and afterwards Malaysia wanted to be independent, so the rulers were restored under British protection. Chinese rebels, supported by the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla attacks to oust the Brits.

In 1963 it became federal states. In 1969 Malays murdered thousands of Chinese in race riots, so the Prime Minister changed the economy so it favoured the Malays so they wouldn’t feel so resentful. Of course, now the other races feel resentful.

Malaysia means the home of orangutans – learn about them!

1st January

New Year’s Day/Hogmany/First Foot

Bring coin, bread, salt, coal, or whisky round a neighbour’s as the first person through their door to bring them luck. Extra lucky if you happen to be a dark-haired man. Anne Cartwright’s blog has these lovely kits.

Eighth Day of Christmas (Maids a’ milking – try these milk science experiments)

Taiwan Founding Day

Taiwan’s name is a bit confusing. It is ruled by the Republic of China, which is mostly Taiwan and a few other islands, and it also calls itself the Chinese Taipei. Its original native inhabitants were Austronesian, and in fact, as the island had so many native languages, Taiwan seems to be where the Austronesian people came from, spreading from Madagascar to Easter Island.

In 1624 the Dutch established a fort here; the Spanish also briefly took over.

In 1662 a Chinese Ming loyalist took over, and raided China from Taiwan for ages, until the Qing dynasty of China annexed it.

in 1894-5 the First Sino-Japanese War was won by Japan and Taiwan went to them. There was a resistance, calling Taiwan its Portguese name, the Island of Formosa, but this was quashed.

In the 1930s Taiwanese culture was outlawed and everyone had to pretend to be Japanese.

Taiwan fought for Japan in WWII, and after Japan surrendered it became part of the Republic of China. No one in Taiwan seemed particularly happy with the government until the 22/8 incident in 1947 when the government shot dead thousands until people stopped complaining.

After WWII China got back to its civil war between the Nationalists/Kuonmintang and the Communists. In 1949 the Nationalists had been defeated, and moved to Taiwan, along with 2 million supporters and a bunch of Chinese national treasures and gold reserves. Both sides claimed to still rule all of China, including Taiwan. Awkward.

The Treaty of San Francisco in 1951 was supposed to make everything official, but as the US and UK couldn’t agree, now nobody knows exactly who Taiwan is supposed to belong to. Communist China? The Republic of China? US and the Allies still?

There then followed the White Terror, martial law until 1987, during which 140,000 people were executed for being possibly pro-Communist. Gradually, though, Taiwan has become democratic, and the financial support it received from the West during the Cold War made it one of the fastest growing economies.

Sudan Independence Day (from UK, 1956)

Sudan, Africa. http://www.operationworld.org/suda

The earliest kingdom in Sudan was the Nubian Kingdom of Kush. The Kush dynasty were also Egyptian pharoahs after invading Egypt, but they were driven back out by the Assyrians. The Kingdom of Kush became the Meroitic Kingdom, which by the 6th century had dissolved into about 50 states. Christianity arrived from the Byzantine Empire at this time.

Islam began to spread. In 1821 Ottoman-ruled Egypt invaded Sudan. Britain occupied it from 1852. In the 1870s we abolished slaves, which had a bad impact on Sudan’s economy and led to a Mahdist (“guided”) army led by Muhammed Ali al-Mahdi pushing out the Turco-Egyptian government. He kept trying to invade everywhere else, Egypt, Ethiopia, etc., but was repelled.

Lord Kitchener defeated the Madhist forces in 1898, and Sudan was then ruled by an Anglo-Egyptian governor-general. Britain didn’t want the two counties to unite though, because they didn’t want Egypt to control the whole Nile valley.

To be continued…

Other events today that may inspire you:

  • Cuba Liberation Day (see 20th May)
  • Haiti Independence Day (from France, 1804 – see 22 May)
  • Independence Day of the Slovak Republic (see 17th July)
  • Founding of the Republic of China (see 30 November)
  • Brunei Independence Day (from UK, 1984 – see 23rd February)
  • Italy Constitution Day (see 2nd June)
  • Public Domain Day (expiration of copyright)
  • Czech Independence Day (see 28th September)

1st December


I love these DIY Lego advent calendars. This little advent village of candy-box houses is cute too. This little advent tree has clues to where treats are hidden around the house. You can also put slips of paper with Christmas activities written on them, like:

  1. Write Santa a letter
  2. Visit Santa
  3. Dance to Christmas songs
  4. Make Christmas cookies and bring them to a relative’s house
  5. Make playdough Christmas trees
  6. Watch a Christmas film like Polar Express, the Snowman, Muppets Christmas Carol, the Grinch, Nativity, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, etc.
  7. Make playdough snowmen
  8. Get ready for bed earlyish, but on the pillow there’s a ticket to see Christmas lights. Then you all lump in the car in pyjamas.
  9. Make gingerbread houses or gingerbread nativity.
  10. Get the Christmas decorations out!
  11. Make cranberry-popcorn garlands for an outdoor Christmas tree for the birds.
  12. Make Christmas cards
  13. Take a Christmas photo
  14. Design paper snowflakes or snowflake ballerinas.
  15. Make Christmas presents for the relatives
  16. Make fake snow out of white bread crumbs, cornflour, ground rice, Epsom salts, glitter, magic snow, polystyrene balls, etc.
  17. Christmas science labs (ideas here and here)
  18. Play with a nativity set
  19. Make Christmas crackers
  20. Make the whole house smell of Christmas – put slices of orange, cranberry, evergreen twigs, cinnamon, nutmeg in a pan of water and boil it.
  21. Play Christmas minute-to-win-it games.
  22. Tell Christmas jokes.
  23. See a panto.
  24. Track Santa (Google also does a good one).

Also today:

  • 1885 Dr Pepper first served
  • 1895 Henry Williamson born, author of Tarka the Otter (age 9-11)
  • 1913 Ford uses first moving assembly line
  • Rosa Parks Day: 1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat
  • 1990 the two entrances of the Channel Tunnel meet 40m below seabed
  • 1761 Marie Tussaud born – so make playdough sculptures of each other
  • Central African Republic National Day
  • Chad Day of Liberty and Democracy
  • Portugal Restoration of Independence Day

1st November

1887 L.S. Lowry born

All Saints Day

Day of the Innocents (Mexico/Haiti remember the firstborn males killed by Herod, mainly with pranks and flour fights (Alicante))

Independence Day (Antigua and Barbuda, from UK in 1981)

Day of the Bulgarian Revival Leaders – see 22nd September

D Hamilton Jackson Day/Liberty Day/Bull and Bread Day (US Virgin Islands remember man who helped them gain workers’ rights and free press under Denmark’s rule)

1st October

1946 Mensa founded in UK – there’s a kids’ IQ test here.

1969 Concorde breaks sound barrier – you know you gotta make paper aeroplanes!

Cameroon Unification Day (independence of South Cameroon from UK, 1961):

Settled from Neolithic times, Cameroon was first inhabited by Baka/Pygmies, Bantu immigrants, then the Sao civilisation, the Kanem Empire which introduced Islam, and later became the Bornu Empire.

In 1472 Portuguese explorers named it Rio dos Cameroes – Shrimp River.

Modibo Adama led a jihad against non-Muslims, creating the Adamawa Emirate in the 19th century, and northern Cameroon was an important part of the Muslim slave trade network.

In 1884 Germany decided it was theirs now; after WWI it was divided between France and Britain.

Popular music styles include makossa, bikutsi, ambasse bey, assiko, mangambeu and tsamassi. Nico Mbarga’s ‘Sweet Mother’ is the top-selling African single of all time. Older kids could try some beadwork.




Thimphu Drubchen (sacred masked dance in Bhutan to appease the protecting deity, Pelden Lhamo – try making a Bhutan mask)


Palau Independence Day (from UN Trust Territory Status, 1994)

Palau is one of those islands that has been passed around imperialists like a recycled Christmas present. Spain took it without asking in 1522 when one of its explorers, Ferdinand Magellan, named it San Juan while passing by. Spain sold it to Germany in 1899 with a bunch of other Caroline Islands; Japan took it at the start of World War I and the US took it from Japan in World War II.

In 1978 it finally became independent again. I like it because when it asked the US if it could become independent, the US said yes but could it store nuclear missiles on the island, and Palau quite rightly said “No thanks” – making it the world’s first nuclear-free constitution.


China National Day

China has the world’s largest population at 1.3 billion and is the second largest country after Russia. For most of the last 2,000 years China has had the world’s largest economy, even though everyone seems surprised they’re on their way there again. Hominids first lived there 2.24 million years ago – fossils in a cave near Beijing of the Peking Man. They invented paper – for writing on, for wrapping presents, for wiping bums, for bank notes – as well as Confucianism (after Confucius, who basically wanted everyone to be nice to others and try to better themselves), Buddhism (seeking enlightenment or nirvana, often through meditation), printing, the compass and gunpowder.

Oracle Bone Script

Chinese writing first appeared in the Shang dynasty in 1700 BC – they used the oracle bone script, which later turned into the modern writing used now.

Qin Shi Huang, founder of the Qin dynasty after which China was named, was the first to rule all of China in 221 B.C. and started building the Great Wall of China.

Then came the Han dynasty, which expanded into Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and Central Asia and helped create the Silk Road, China’s link to Western Europe. Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms is about the period after the Han dynasty’s collapse.

Under the later Tang and Song dynasties, China invented the woodcut printing block, which led to more people being able to read … and play cards. They studied medicine and diagnosed diabetes; invented porcelain; and transported natural gas through bamboo pipes to power stoves.

In 1271 Mongolian leader Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis) took over, and halved the population in his cruel conquest. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew his Yuan dynasty and founded the Ming Dynasty, in which China developed a strong navy and economy, explored the world, and developed arts and culture even more.

Ming Vase

Ming Vase

In 1644, the Ming dynasty was overthrown and was followed by the Manchu Qing dynasty, the last of the dynasties, finishing in 1912. During this period China had two Opium Wars with Britain, when the Chinese government noticed that literally everyone in China was addicted to opium mixed with tobacco. The government tried to ban it and seize the imported opium, and Britain declared war. Ridiculous. It ended badly for China, with Britain taking Hong Kong and imposing a whole bunch of other unfair terms. The embarrassment for the Chinese people led to the Taiping Rebellion in 1850, by a man who believed himself to be the (much) younger brother of Jesus. The civil war cost up to 40 million lives (WWI killed off about that around the world). A famine in 1876-9 took another 13 million lives.

While China was mucking around fighting each other and dying all over the place, Japan was invading Korea. China went to help and this became the first Sino-Japanese War, in which China lost Korea and Taiwan to Japan in 1895.

In 1912 Yuan Shikai overthrew the last emperor, Puyi, and the Republic of China was established. Sun Yat-sen of the Nationalist/Kuomintang Party became the temporary president, before being replaced by Yuan Shikai. Yuan decided he wanted to be emperor, actually, but that really annoyed everyone and he had to step down.

The Kuomintang reunified the fragmented country by marching across the country in the Northern Expedition, defeating all the warlords and uniting everyone, and then went back to fighting the Communists, against whom they’d been fighting since the civil wars. The Commies retreated in the Long March (370 days long, to be exact), but came back to help the Kuomintang fight the Japanese during WWII.

After Japan surrendered they went right back to fighting each other, of course, until 1949, by which time the Communists were in control of mainland China and the Kuomintang were just left with the islands of Taiwan, etc. Mao Zedong declared his country the People’s Republic of China and set out on his economic Great Leap Forward, which had the very best intentions but starved about 45 million people. His Cultural Revolution

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

Weirdly, China was not particularly allied with Soviet Russia, even though you’d think they’d be best buds in the Cold War. In 1971 the People’s Republic of China (the Communists) replaced the Republic of China (the non-Communists) in the UN and began to be accepted in the world. After Mao’s death Chinese socialism became a bit less strict, peasants were granted land and the market was more open.

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 were against government corruption and for greater freedom of speech. The army came in and killed hundreds and the government cracked down even harder on freedom of speech,

Activities: We dressed up as pandas and talked about why they were becoming extinct. We went out into the garden and ate chives, pretending they were bamboo. We watched some Chinese opera and we tried to eat Chinese food (rice, dumplings, noodles, soy products, dim sum). We tried some green tea and tried kung fu and tai chi. We made paper and tried to write our names in Chinese script with a calligraphy pen. We looked at the Great Wall and on our walk, every time Baby wanted to walk along a garden wall I said “You’re walking along the Great Wall of China! Can you see any pandas from up there?” We looked at how silk is made. Make pottery.You could try ping pong, mah jong or making a go board with buttons or counters. You could try seeing how big and long a wall you can build at the seaside or with Lego, etc. You could try reading the Tao of Pooh together. Little boys would probably love living like a caveman for a day, making a tent out of sticks and leaves, making tools and foraging for food. Making dragons is always fun. Probably don’t try acupuncture.


Cyprus Independence Day (from UK, 1960)

Cyprus was first inhabited about 10,000 B.C. and still has some of the world’s oldest water wells. The arrival of humans on the island mysteriously coincided with the extinction of all its dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants…

From 1400 B.C. Mycenaean (= Bronze-Age) Greek traders arrived and they settled on the island from 1100 B.C. In Greek mythology Cyprus is the birthplace of Aphrodite and Adonis.

From the 8th century B.C. Phoenicians (sea-faring people from Lebanon) began to settle the island too.

Because of its strategic location, Cyprus was then conquered by Assyria (centred around the Iraq/Syria/Turkey area) in 708 B.C., then Egypt, then Persia under the Achaemenid Empire. The Cypriots revolted and managed to retain some of their Greek culture.

In 333 B.C. it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and when on his death his empire was divided up between his successors Cyprus went to Hellenistic (=Greek) Ptolemaic Egypt (=from Ptolemy I to Cleopatra and the Roman Conquest).

In 58 B.C. the Roman Empire took Cyprus. When that empire fell in 395 it became part of the Byzantine Empire.

But from 649 and for three hundred years Muslim raiders attacked from the Levant (eastern Mediterrannean) – leaving thousands dead and all churches ruined and ransacked. Eventually Byzantine rule was restored.

In 1191 Richard I of England took it during the Crusades, then sold it to the Knights Templar.

Then Venice took it in 1489, and built gorgeous Renaissance walls around the capital, Nicosia, against the Ottomans.

In 1570 the Ottoman Empire took Cyprus. The Turks allowed different religions to rule themselves under the ‘millet’ system (millet = millah = nation in Arabic).

After the Russo-Turkish war in 1877-8, Cyprus was ‘leased’ to Britain, although it continued to officially be owned by Turkey along with Egypt and Sudan.

Also today:

  • Hong Kong National Day
  • Nigeria Independence Day (from UK, 1960)
  • Tuvalu Days (Independence from UK, 1960)
  • World Vegetarian Day