30th May

Canary Islands Day:

The Canary Islands include Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. They are not named after canaries, but after dogs: Canariae Insulae is Latin for ‘Island of the Dogs’, hence the little doggies on their flag.

Canaries are named after the islands.

The Romans knew of the islands, when they were apparently uninhabited but had ruined buildings.

When Europeans explored the islands from the 14th century, the people living there, the Guanches, had a Stone-Age lifestyle.

In 1402 French explorer Jean de Bethéncourt conquered the Canary Islands for Castille (a medieval kingdom in Spain).

In 1448 Bethéncourt’s heir sold Lanzarote to the Portuguese. The Castilians and the Lanzaroteans did not like this, and pushed the Portuguese out. But from then on Portugal and Castile kind of shared the islands and their surrounding area.

The islands became an important stopping point for Spanish ships on their way to the New World in the 16th century and the islanders became rich from the trade. This wealth attracted not only pirates but also the Dutch, who took time out of their War of Independence in 1599 to attack the islands, and also our own Nelson, who lost his arm trying to take over the Canary Islands in 1797.

The Canary Islands’ sugar exports couldn’t compete with the slave-plantations in the New World, and so switched to cochineal (powdered beetles still used as food colouring today).

Thousands of Canarians emigrated to the New World during this time.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the British began growing bananas in the Canary Islands. I don’t know how we got in there, but we did.

In 1936 Francisco Franco became General Commandant of the Canary Islands, and on 17 July joined the military revolt that began the horrendous Spanish Civil War. He later became dictator of Spain and the islands.

After Franco died in 1975, Spain became a democratic constitutional monarchy (which means they have a royal family but they don’t make the laws, just like Britain), and in 1982 the Canary Islands were granted independence and a year later held their own elections.

Most Canarians feel equally Spanish and Canarian. They have their own wrestling style (Canarian wrestling),

and a kind of fencing using long sticks (called ‘the game of sticks/Juego del Palo’).

Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are both the capital city of the Canary Islands. It’s home to the endangered Loggerhead Turtle.

Other events today:

  • 1431 Joan of Arc burned at stake
  • Anguilla Day (a Carribean island)
  • First day of Kamataan harvest festival in Malaysia
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30th April

Walpurgis Night (or St Walpurga’s Night, originally) is associated more with witches than the female saint. In Czechoslovakia they burn little witches made of rags; in Estonia they dress as witches like we would on Hallowe’en; in Finland there are carnivals and picnics; northern Germany has bonfires.

In old Ireland it was called Beltane; the day cattle were driven to the pastures for the summer, and rituals were done to protect them such as passing them through two bonfires. The flames would be used to relight all domestic fires and candles, and the ashes from the original fires would be spread on crops.

Other events today:

  • Children’s Day (Mexico) – see 16th September
    Reunification Day (Vietnam) – see 2nd September
  • Louisiana founded (1812): famous for New Orleans, voodoo, jazz, tobasco sauce, Mardi Gras, jambalaya, gumbo, pralines

30th March

Good Friday (2018): This is the day Jesus died on the cross. Traditionally marbles,

bat-and-trap (a ball is balanced on a little seesaw, or trap. The batter hits the seesaw so the ball flies into the air, then hits it again to get it in the goal – over and in between two 7ft high posts – where the bowling team are waiting to catch it. If, when the bowling team bowl it back, they can knock over a little wicket in front of the trap, the bowler is out),

tipcat (tipping a little stick into the air with a big stick, then walloping it again like a bat and ball. The opponent offers points based on how many jumps one would have to do to reach the little stick. The tipper can refuse if they think it is more jumps away, but they must prove it)

and skipping are played on this day.

Baked hot cross buns were believed to have magical powers. They were broken into four and put in the four corners of the barn to ensure a good harvest, or a few crumbs were put in medicine when someone was ill.

Passover begins (2018) – ends 11 April.

1820 Anna Sewell born, author of Black Beauty

1853 Vincent Van Gogh born

National Doctors Day (US)

 

Other events that might inspire your play today:

Palestine/Israel Land Day

Spiritual Baptist Shouters’ Liberation Day (Trinidad and Tobago celebrate repeal of law prohibiting the Spiritual Baptist faith. This is the only country in the world with a holiday for Shouters.)

30th November

3340 BC earliest recorded eclipse

1667 Jonathan Swift born (author of Gulliver’s Travels)

1835 Mark Twain born, author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

1872 first international football match (England v Scotland) – so play football

1874 Lucy Maud Montgomery born, author of Anne of Green Gables

1934 The Flying Scotsman reaches 100mph – so play trains

1982 Thriller album debuts – kids love it

Barbados Independence (from UK, 1966)

barbados_world

Amerindians came to Barbados from the 4th century. The Kalinago (indigenous Carribeans) came in the 14th century. When the Spanish and the Portguese came over in the 16th/17th centuries, the natives fled. A few Arawaks came over from British Guiana in the 1800s.

The British took over in 1627-8 and the population became mainly white. There wasn’t even many African slaves because a lot of work was ‘indentured labour’, when people paid for their passage to the New World by working for an employer there.

Barbados gained independence in 1966, keeping our Queen as head of state. About a third of the population emigrated to Britain in 1946-80,

Barbados’s national sport is cricket, music is calypso and soja.

 

Benin National Day – see 10th January

St Andrews Day (Scotland)

The first hunter-gatherers arrived 12,800 years ago, after the Ice Age retreated enough. There is a Neolithic village called Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands. Bronze Age Scots were called Picts/Caledonians.

skara_brae_kap_06_hires_c2a9kb

https://digitaldirtvirtualpasts.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/online-exhibition-digital-dwelling-at-skara-brae/

The Roman Empire took England and Wales as Britannia, but the Caledonians remained their enemies. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out, although sometimes they moved as far in as the Antonine Wall (a less well-known wall in the centre of Scotland).

hadrians_wall_at_greenhead_lough

In the 6th century the Kingdom of the Picts became established, later known as Alba. By the 13th century the Picts had taken over most of modern Scotland. Their king David I brought in the Davidian Revolution: feudalism, towns called burghs, and an influx of English and French speaking knights that eventually made English fashionable rather than Gaelic or Norse.

In 1286 Alexander I died with no heir, and the English Edward I had to decide who should be the next king. He made John Balliol king but also made himself Lord Paramount of Scotland. When the Scots refused to help Edward fight France (instead actually negotiating the Auld Alliance with them instead), Edward deposed John and declared himself king of Scotland. This started the Wars of Independence (1296-1328) with William Wallace the most famous leader of the resistance.

Robert the Bruce was crowned king in 1306, and victory at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) got him control over Scotland again. His brother, Edward Bruce, briefly invaded Ireland and became its king to try and strengthen Scotland’s position against England, but it didn’t take. In 1320 the world’s first documented declaration of independence, the Arbroath Declaration, should have finished it, but we carried on fighting.

in 1502 James IV of Scotland signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Henry VII and married his daughter, so it seemed like we were getting along. But then James agreed to go to war with England with France because of their Auld Alliance. He was the last British monarch to die in battle, at the Battle of Flodden. The Auld Alliance was ended.

Scotland then had a Protestant revolution and booted out Mary, Queen of Scots, formerly queen of France. Her 1-year-old son James became King James VI. Then England’s Elizabeth I, Mary’s cousin, died without heir and James VI also became James I of England and Ireland. His son, James VII, was overthrown and replaced by William and Mary, and was the last Roman Catholic to rule Britain.

In 1707 the Treaty of Union made Scotland part of the United Kingdom. In 1998 it got its own Parliament again.

St Andrew is said to have been martyred on an x-shaped cross, or saltire, hence Scotland’s flag. Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn!

South Yemen Independence Day (from UK, 1967)

30th June

1859 Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope

1937 999 introduced in London as emergency number – do your kids know what to do?

Congo Independence Day:

The first wave of people into Congo was around 2,000 B.C. These Bantu-speaking villagers knew the techniques of iron-smelting and moved the indigenous Pygmies out – there are now up to 600,000 Pygmies living in the Congo rainforest.

The villagers also exploited the natural ores of the land and became great exporters of metals and ivory, and became the Kingdom of Luba. The only downside so far was that Arabs kept nipping in for a slave raid.

In 1885, somehow Berlin decided King Leopold II of Belgium owned the Congo, and he set about building a railway there and began rubber production, cutting off the limbs of any natives who weren’t joining in the rubber production with enough enthusiasm. During this period of disease and brutality, the population of the Congo was reduced by as much as a half.

Due to international protest (Great Britain especially noisy), the Belgian parliament gently prised the Congo from the king’s grip and some economic and social progress was made, even though the colonialists looked down on the indigenous people.

On 30 June 1960 Congo gained independence in its own free elections and most of the colonialists fled.

The Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, then sacked the President Joseph Kasavabu, and the army’s chief of staff somehow managed to get money from the US and Belgium to neutralise Lumumba and Kasavabu’s fighing, in case they went all Communist.

In 1961, the US, Belgium and Katangan forces kidnapped and executed Lumumba, and the UN had to come in two years later to sort out all the confusion.

From 1971 the Congo was actually called Zaire under the rule of Mobotu Sese Soku, whom the US loved because he was anti-Communist, even though he declared a one-party state. He occasionally held elections in which he was the only candidate, and embezzled all the money he could get his hands on. Nice bloke.

He also, and this is my favourite bit, renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga – “the all powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, shall go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”. (Before that he was called Joseph.)

In 1996, Rwandan and Ugandan armies sneaked over to conquer Zaire; some Zaireans joined in out of protest against Mobutu.

In 1997 Mobotu fled in the face of increasing opposition (and having lost US support now that Communism isn’t so scary) and the leader of that mixed army, Kabila, declared himself President of the Congo (not Zaire anymore).

He then asked the Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers to head home, thanks very much. Rwanda and Uganda then formed separate rebel armies and came back fighting almost immediately, and Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia got involved on Kabila’s side.

Kabila’s son took over after he was assassinated in 2001, and he asked for peace talks and UN peacekeepers were called in. Kabila jr agreed to share power with the Rwandan and Ugandan rebel army leaders and in 2006 the Congo finally got around to some multi-party elections.

The results led to fighting, the UN sorted it out, they had a re-vote, Kabila won. In general, the fighting has carried on and the whole war has so far killed 5.4 million people.

Activities: Listen to soukous music. Look at the bonobo (but not too much),

the white rhino, the mountain gorilla and the okapi (a zebra-giraffe thing).

They also have an equivalent to the Loch Ness monster: the Mokèlé-mbèmbé.

Other events today:

  • Phillippine-Spanish Friendship Day
  • Sudan Revolution Day – see 1st January

30th April

Walpurgis Night (or St Walpurga’s Night, originally) is associated more with witches than the female saint. In Czechoslovakia they burn little witches made of rags; in Estonia they dress as witches like we would on Hallowe’en; in Finland there are carnivals and picnics; northern Germany has bonfires.

In old Ireland it was called Beltane; the day cattle were driven to the pastures for the summer, and rituals were done to protect them such as passing them through two bonfires. The flames would be used to relight all domestic fires and candles, and the ashes from the original fires would be spread on crops.

Other events today:

  • Children’s Day (Mexico) – see 16th September
    Reunification Day (Vietnam) – see 2nd September
  • Louisiana founded (1812): famous for New Orleans, voodoo, jazz, tobasco sauce, Mardi Gras, jambalaya, gumbo, pralines